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Tilting at Windmills

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September 18, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

BEHIND THE TIMES....Sam Harris is no friend of religion, and in particular no friend of Islam. Today in the LA Times he takes his fellow liberals to task for not taking the threat of Islam seriously enough:

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.

A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

....Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

Is this true? Harris gives the game away elsewhere in his piece, where he cites polls showing that 16% of the public believes in conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11. He's pretty sure this is evidence of liberal denial, but the same poll shows that 16% of the public also believes the government is withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from others planets. Face it: there's a fringe group of Americans prone to believing conspiracy theories of all kinds, and the questions in the poll make it clear that active belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories is actually less widespread than plenty of others.

That kind of cherry picking makes Harris's essay deeply unserious. But Harris's second version of cherry picking is, perhaps, even worse: his belief that "liberals" continue to believe terrorism is caused solely by "economic despair, lack of education and American militarism." His evidence? It's hard to say, but apparently it's based on the letters he received after writing a polemic against religion called The End of Faith. But it should hardly come as a news flash that if you write a polemic you're going to hear polemics in return. The response to his book probably has no relevance at all to what "liberals" in general think.

In fact, it's sort of ironic that Harris chooses this particular time to make this point, because the conversation has moved on. Granted, I don't spend a lot of time hanging out with A.N.S.W.E.R. activists or participating in peace marches, but in the liberal circles I do participate in, virtually no one subscribes to the "economic despair" argument anymore. What we do believe is that the terrorists themselves usually middle class and decently educated are small in number and limited in capability unless they have broad support among the rest of the population. Without that support the creed of militant jihadism withers and dies.

It's that broad support that we need to target, and that's why we should focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions. It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse. Harris has some catching up to do if he wants to join the conversation.

Kevin Drum 12:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (213)

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Comments

What Kevin said. Liberals have to realize that they are the only ones who are truly serious about fighting terrorists. Conservatives, and especially Bush Republicans, are profoundly unserious. They are still fighting the last war. This is a new day. Time for new weapons. The President's "bang, bang, shoot em up" approach is of limited value in the broader war for hearts and minds.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 18, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I like Harris a lot, but I think that Kevin is right in this post for the most part. There are still libs who say "economic desperation," "Imperialism," "Israel," etc., though.

Posted by: Al's Mommy on September 18, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

but in the liberal circles I do participate in, virtually no one subscribes to the "economic despair" argument anymore. What we do believe is that the terrorists themselves usually middle class and decently educated are small in number and limited in capability unless they have broad support among the rest of the population.

Kevin, what you just said is evidence you don't take the threat of Islam seriously. As Pope Benedict has pointed out the problem is Islam itself. Chrisianity is a religion of peace while Muslims "believe in spreading their faith by the sword". Therefore, there is no way to stop the holy war waged by the Islamofascists on us unless we wage a war on Islam itself.

Teaching the Muslims Christianity is the best way to end the jihad against Christians being waged by Muslims. As Pope Benedict also pointed out, Christianity is "tightly linked to reason". That is why all reasonable and rational people believe in Christianity. Only irrational and unreasonable people don't believe in Christianity. By teaching the Muslims Christianity and converting them, we can end this jihad launched by the Islamofascists. There is no other way because the Islamofascists will never end it themselves.

Posted by: Al on September 18, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

If Harris is right, I wonder what he proposes as a solution? His description of the problem sounds unsolvable--certainly unsolvable with military force. If he is right, then we will need the most clever and intelligent approach to a social problem we have ever had. Yet, Harris swings a hammer around wildly as if he exemplifies a better approach. Idiot. He'd been better off writing a column asking everyone to read "What Terrorists Want." Louise Richardson offers the most informed way forward yet...and I think she is a liberal!

Posted by: eb on September 18, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Re; "...namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse."

Public opinion in the islamic world boils down to "Allah is great and infidels are bad". This hasn't changed in centuries. The cause of the problem is that the islamic world has been asking itself, "If Allah is great and infidels are bad, how have they become so much richer and more powerful than we are?" The problem itself is that some who ask that question have decided that the infidels are the problem and that the solution is jihad.

So can we ignore a jihad? No, we must defeat it or isolate it.

Posted by: Randy on September 18, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm so tired of hearing Dems are weaker on fighting terrorism.

Let's compare Dems vs. Pubs.

Dems think capturing or killing Osama is our number one prority. Pubs don't think he's that important.

Dems have voted to fund inspection of all airline cargo. Pubs voted against it.

Dems voted to provide the troops life-saving armour. Pubs voted against it.

Dems voted to secure rail, chemical and nuclear plants. Pubs voted against it.

Dems know that getting warrants after spying, does not hurt the war on terror. Pubs say you have to break the law and have no oversight.

Republicans talk tough, but their actions are weak.

Posted by: AkaDad on September 18, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

How is the fascination with Jihadism that different with our evangelical fascination with Rapture? IMHO, both of which are fascination to death, although our priests who evangelize these would sermon and want all gullible believers to think otherwise.

They are all a belief in salvation through death, and the mohammeds/priests that preach them are death-dealers.

Posted by: eo on September 18, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

In this liberal's view, fundamentalism, full stop, is a problem. Maybe economic problems and lack of education feed fundamentalism, but between Islamic fundamentalists willing to kill themselves as long as they can take out some infidels with them, to Christian fundamentalists who blow up abortion clinics or kill gynecologists who perform abortions or provide aid and comfort to compatriots who do so (see Eric Rudolph), I think it's safe to say that true believers are not rational actors, and are therefore a serious problem.

However, I doubt that bombing these fundamentalists is an effective method of doing anything but radicalizing others into fundamentalism.

Posted by: maurinsky on September 18, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The web has made it impossible to get away with illogical claptrap by any group. We just pay attention to the nonsense because we need to and the web makes it possible.

Our military action is limited in scope in Iraq where 90% of the murder is Islam vs Islam. This is the obvious fact of life facing the Middle East and the anti-war groups.

Take a similiar situation, has Bush's dictatorial nonsense has radicalized the liberal wing? Not really, it has merely made more people listen to the liberal wing and the liberal wing has had to accompany some logic to their rants as a result. The liberal wing is no longer able to get away with double speak, nor are the neocons.

Consider the recent war against Hezbollah. We finally hear the head of Hezbollah say that he didn't mean for all that to happen. So Hezbollah has discovered that having a separate set of rules for Israel is no longer logical. Hezbollah has been "outed".

Even in Afghanistan, the Taliban are under a spot light as never before and they have to explain why hanging school teachers makes sense in any fashion.

What we see is simply the world spot light put on these issues; and nonsense, either from Bush, the Muslims, or the liberals no longer suffices. People pay a lot more attention, the media is under greater scrutiny.

Any noticable political group is hamstrung by their inability to spew the illogical nonsense for one special interest group without being outed as hypocritical.

Did you hear from the Muslim Brotherhood about the pope's apology? The Muslim Brotherhood accepted. This group has been outed, made legal and subject to the rules of logical consistancy. The same is happening to Hamas, Hezbollah, Bush, Chirac, Putin and the Russians, the liberals. Even Iran has had to explain why it is OK to kill Jews but not Pakistanis.

We are all under the spotlight, we are all, in a sense, legal, outed and subject to logic. (Excepting Limbaugh or course)

Posted by: Matt on September 18, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I do think that many prominnent non-conservatives (as a libertarian I won't limit it to the left) are reluctant to be as vociferous as they normally would be in challenging something that is as illiberal as radical Islam. Progressives are quick to, rightly, call out instances of emergent theocracy in this country, but back off from publicly going after Islam with nearly the same energy.

I think the fairest explanation of this is that these folks are worried about their criticism of Islam becoming tacit backing for the Administration's policy of tackling problems in the Middle East with a military-first approach. Many on the left who were quick to criticize terrorism and radical Islam soon after 9/11 have gone quieter after the Iraq invasion, at least in public. I know many people who privately have great fear about what the spread of radical Islam is doing to liberal values and individual rights, but are reluctant to speak publicly. This has to end. This is not so nuanced a message, that radical Islam is an enemy of what we value but we aren't going to stamp it out with the army, that we shouldn't be able to express it clearly.

That being said, both we libertarians as well as the the "reality-based community" on the left need to achnowlege that a wholly disproportionate number of 9/11 conspiracists come from our ranks. We of the libertarian/left rightly criticize things like the teaching of intelligent design as pseudo-scientific garbage, and then have huge portions of our community latch onto conspiracy pseudo-scientific garbage.

Posted by: coyote on September 18, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

How is the fascination with Jihadism that different with our evangelical fascination with Rapture? IMHO, both of which are fascination to death, although our priests who evangelize these would sermon and want all gullible believers to think otherwise.

They are all a belief in salvation through death, and the mohammeds/priests that preach them are death-dealers.

If we can't control our evangelicals rapid growing fascination with Rapture, how can we control Jihadism?

Look into your own backyard first, before pointing fingers at others.

Posted by: eo on September 18, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

My only comment is that while you claim to have changed your positions on the causes of Islamic terrorism, this change has in no way affected the solutions you advocate. Your original response was economic engagement, winning hearts and minds, etc. That hasn't changed.

Invariant solutions are suspect. Whether it's GW's tax cuts or the war on Iraq with its various justifications, if the context changes and the solution doesn't it is hard to argue that the latter follows from a reality-based assessment of the former.

For the sake of argument please consider this: the instability in the middle east is the result of internal processes which we have very little control over. While things we do may shape the outward expression of those internal processes, those expressions really aren't directed towards us at all. All politics is local. Your concern and desire for good relations mean nothing to the politicians stirring things up over there.

What I don't understand about your position is this: you (Kevin Drum) instantly comprehend that something like "Justice Sunday" or the gay marrage stuuf is bs, driven more by politics and the internal dynamics of the Christian Right. Can't you see that people are the same everywhere?

Posted by: Adam on September 18, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I read Harris with my corn flakes this morning, and thought "WTF?" for exactly these reasons.

Plus this one - I'd bet that more than 16% of conservatives believe all kinds of crackpot bullshit, including a belief in, and encouragement of, Armageddon by actual leading lights of the conservalooney movement. But I don't see huge op-eds by conservatives decrying fellow conservatives as unserious because of it.

Darn those liberal media...

Posted by: craigie on September 18, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is off topic but I wanted to share this.

You know when ol George said he was a uniter not a divider, well at the time I was skeptical but now I am a believer.

See this article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5354812.stm

He has successfully unit everyone that hates the US to team up against us. If Kim Jung Ill joins that group it will not surprise me at all.

Posted by: Dave on September 18, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Matt

Are you arguing that the Republicans are the last group for whom logic doesn't apply?

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 18, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin quotes Sam Harris: "...liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism."

First of all, to say that terrorism -- Muslim or otherwise -- "springs from" economic despair, lack of education, and/or American militarism is not the same thing as saying that the specific individuals who engage in terrorist acts are themselves economically disadvantaged or poorly educated. Relatively well-off and well-educated individuals within a society may choose to engage in terrorism in response to poverty, lack of education or militarism which affects others in their society.

So what does motivate terrorists? Sam Harris has made a career out of his jihad against religion, but research shows that religion has little to do with motivating terrorists:

Nationalism, Not Islam, Motivates Most Suicide Terrorists
by Gary Olson
September 5, 2006
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

Excerpt:

In his recent book, DYING TO WIN: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has provided an indispensable public service by collecting data from all 315 suicide terrorist campaigns from 1980 to 2003, involving 462 individuals.

His overall finding: The major objective of 95 percent of suicide attacks is to expel foreign military forces from territory that the terrorists perceive as their homeland. There is little connection with Islamic fundamentalism or any of the world religions. The taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism and it's "mainly a response to foreign occupation." The objective is political self-determination.

The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a secular, clearly anti-religious movement, have committed 76 of the 315 suicide attacks, the most of any group. Their specific goal was an independent homeland in Sri Lanka.

Pape, who has also taught at the U.S. Air Force's Advanced Airpower Studies, convincingly demonstrates that "suicide terrorist groups are neither primarily criminal groups dedicated to enriching their top leaders, nor religious cults isolated from the rest of their society. Rather, suicide terrorist organizations often command broad social support within the national communities from which they recruit, because they are seen as pursuing legitimate nationalist goals." Absent these goals, suicide terrorism rarely occurs.

Only 6 percent of the perpetrators have come from the five countries with the world's largest Islamic fundamentalist populations (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran and Nigeria). He notes, "Prior to America's invasion in March 2003, Iraq had never experienced a suicide bombing in its history." Further, Pape's demographic profiles of individual suicide terrorists reveals they are not uneducated, poor, mentally unstable, lacking in prospects, or young men expecting to spend paradise in the company of 72 virgins. Almost exactly the opposite is true. The data indicates they have higher incomes, intelligence and education, are deeply integrated into their communities, are highly politically conscious and from widely varied religious backgrounds.

The empirical evidence indicates that suicide terrorists are not motivated by religion, but are overwhelmingly motivated by nationalist resistance to foreign occupation of their homelands -- i.e. militarism.

Sam Harris has his own agenda, namely his disapproval of religion. He certainly has every right to advocate against religion generally and Islam specifically, if he wishes, but he ought not to conflate that agenda with the fight against terrorism, which is overwhelmingly political violence, not religious violence.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Matt

Are you arguing that the Republicans are the last group for whom logic doesn't apply?

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 18, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

We of the libertarian/left rightly criticize things like the teaching of intelligent design as pseudo-scientific garbage, and then have huge portions of our community latch onto conspiracy pseudo-scientific garbage.

What should "we" do? I know people - actual real people, not someone I met once in line in the grocery store, but people I spend time with - who believe that 9/11 is a government fraud. These people, however, are not liberals - they are conservatives! Apart from telling them they are nuts (which I do), what else do "we" do?

More to the point, how is that these crackpot theories are automatically "liberal"? I just don't see it.

Posted by: craigie on September 18, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

This is a rhetorical stunt Hitchens uses a lot - set up the straw man of the capital-L "Liberal," who spends all day reading Michael Moore books and lamenting anything the American military ever does, has done or will do. Do these people exist? Sure. But they represent the tiniest fraction of a microcosm of the left. We stand ready to fight - yes, fight, with guns and everything - fundamentalism in all its forms. We just think - if we're going to ask our troops to risk their lives in this fight, they should be given every advantage we can give them. We are reasonably sure "a tax break for the wealthiest 1% of Americans in the middle of this fight" isn't one of those advantages. Neither is 130k troops where 500k are needed. Or sanctioned torture. Et cetera. Ad nauseum.

Posted by: cazart on September 18, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

eb wrote: "If Harris is right, I wonder what he proposes as a solution?"

Harris is not right, as I wrote above. The primary motivation behind the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts is nationalism, not religion.

Having said that, Harris ultimately proposes the same "solution" that he's been proposing to all problems of human existence, in all his writing, for years: eliminate all religion from human life, everywhere and forever.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Charlie Lawrence posting as "Thomas1" wrote: "I wish our party would recognize that you just can't trust Muslims."

I wish you would drop your fake, phony, absurd, idiotic pretense of being a Democrat. Everyone who reads these pages knows who you are and what you are. Your pretense of being a Democrat just makes you more of a laughingstock than you would be anyway.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's not Islasm that's the problem, but religion per se and the hucksterism that comes with it.

Religion has been made utterly irrelevant by the scientific and technological progress of the last century. Religion in any of its forms is, if you will, in its last throes.

I say pox on all their houses.

Posted by: gregor on September 18, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK


It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse.

This is the kind of thinking that generations of Americans have been schooled to call 'appeasement'. Few if any elections will be won by such talk. That may be a big part of the reason for the tension between the Democrats' base and their professional politicians.

Posted by: David Tomlin on September 18, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse.

Amen, Kevin!

Posted by: pol on September 18, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Islam seems scary and violent because it's the youngest of the world's great religions. It's still a teenager. Give it another millenium or so and it ought to mellow some.

Posted by: Mo MacArbie on September 18, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

As a liberal, it scares the hell out of me that Christianist religious loonies have given Islamist religious loonies a new lease on life.

Posted by: Avedon on September 18, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

PS. Al has never read the Bible.

Posted by: Avedon on September 18, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I read a couple of reviews of Mr. Harris' book and saw him lecture on C-SPAN. I went to his website and the first endorsement he put on it was from the torture advocate Prof. Dershowitz. I was taken aback and re-watched that C-SPAN lecture. Mr. Harris, while correctly identifying religion as an informing philosophy that sanctions violence against the 'other,' fails to see it operate in religions he admires, like Buddhism, or other belief systems.

As a left handed 'liberal' I do not think religion or economics plays much of a role informing some Muslims to embrace terrorism. What informs anyone, Muslim or otherwise, to decide to use violence is retaliation against an overwhelming force being used indiscriminately against their families or nations. Terrorist violence is the logical form that type of retaliation assumes.

What infuriates me is Mr. Harris' moral hair splitting. Suicide terrorists are the very worst kind of violence advocates to him, but violence against civilians carried out by a nation-states is somehow more legitimate, regardless of how many more people it destroys.

So, the question must be asked: what philosophy informs Mr. Harris to condemn those who act out violence with meager resources, which often means sacrifice through suicide, while implicitly endorsing torture, the use of anti-personnel weapons, and the use of state of the art weapons systems to destroy apartment blocks with people sleeping in them? His beliefs are informed by a hysterical objectivism.

Mr. Harris should have been a biologist. He has the perfect philosphy to permit him to create the most horrific types of biological weapons. From now on I will refer to him as Santa Clauswitz.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin quotes Sam Harris:

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are [...] we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise [...] liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

Harris is just plain wrong. In reality, "abundant evidence" shows that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks -- in particular, suicide terrorism which is responsible for nearly half of all fatalities caused by terrorist attacks -- is rooted in nationalism and resistance to foreign military occupation of what the terrorists consider to be their homeland, and has little or nothing to do with religion.

When Harris complains that "liberals" are "soft on terrorism", what he really means is that "liberals" are tolerant of Islam, which Harris -- for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism itself -- finds morally reprehensible.

But Harris finds all religion to be morally reprehensible. In a recent article in the Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun, Harris praised Buddhist thought and Buddhist teachings -- but then condemned Buddhism as a religion as morally reprehensible, writing nonsensically that "the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world" and that "merely being a self-described 'Buddhist' is to be complicit in the worlds violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree."

How can "merely being a self-described Buddhist" -- and therefore, by definition, a person who practices nonviolence and compassion -- make one "complicit in the world's violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree"? Such is Sam Harris's thinking.

What Harris is really trying to do here is to falsely equate terrorism with religion and hijack "liberals" into his personal jihad against all religion. That is profoundly dishonest.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Small in number? What percent of the Muslim population would you figure are extremists? 10%?
That still equates to about 10 million angry jihadis.

Posted by: USASamurai on September 18, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is right that Harris does a poor job of supporting his thesis. Unfortunately, his thesis is correct.

Kevin himself gives the game away when he admits that libs want to "focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and multilateral institutions." Kevin merely disputss the reasons Harris states.

Let's set theory aside, and look at the real world. Where have economicic engagement and multilateral institutions worked against Islamic terrorism?

Whether we like it or not, military action worked against Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan. Miltary action has partly worked in Iraq. There's still a lot of terrorism inside Iraq, but Iraq no longer supports terror attacks outside the country, as they did under Saddam.

It's unfortunatel that defeating Islamic terrorism will require force, sometimes applied in ugly, unpalatable ways. Libs who ignore this reality are reghtly distrusted on security.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 18, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

You all are only proving Harris' actual point - which is that religion is sheltered from criticism in virtually every culture on the planet - and thus, it continues to grow and thrive in a time when it should be waning in influence.

Note Bill Maher's recent experience on CBS's new evening news segment - "Free Speech." CBS informed him "religion" was off the table for discussion.

Imagine...

And a quick note to the poster who mentioned "nationalism" as the root cause of terrorism. That study focused specifically on suicide bombers, not terrorism in general so while the data of the study is fascinating and believable, you're stretching it out beyond the original study to include all terrorism.

Though for my money, I'm betting the idea of being occupied or controlled by an oppressive force IS a prime motivator for terrorists in general - From Osama to McVeigh.

But I think Harris' main point is that religion has benefitted from a protected status. And it is time for that protection to go away...thekeez

Posted by: Jeff Keezel on September 18, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Harris's End of Faith -- I can't recall another book in which I went from nearly complete agreement after the first three chapters to mostly strong disagreement in later chapters. It was disappointing to discover that Harris, who writes persuasivly about the absurdity and harm of religious dogma, then loses his reason and becomes dogmatic when writing about Islam and the West's response to Muslim terrorist and States. I was particularly disappointed that Harris argues in support for using torture and for nuking Iran.

Posted by: Bragan on September 18, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe that someone would say such deplorable things about an entire religion, but i suppose i shouldn't be suprised with him.
I agree that the economic despair theory is tired and proving to be untrue.
Agreed, though, that we need to move forward with finding a base way to rid the world of terrorism; one idea is actually getting our representatives to push forward with the Millenium Development Goals, which to eradicate many of the problems that cause people to become terrorists.

Posted by: stephanie on September 18, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

...between Islamic fundamentalists willing to kill themselves as long as they can take out some infidels with them, to Christian fundamentalists who blow up abortion clinics or kill gynecologists who perform abortions or provide aid and comfort to compatriots who do so (see Eric Rudolph), I think it's safe to say that true believers are not rational actors, and are therefore a serious problem.

"Serious problem?" Run up a murder count in both of those columns and see which of those two categories is really the "serious problem" today.

In the last thirty years, 7 innocent people have been murdered in anti-abortion crimes. The last two in 1998.

Posted by: janice on September 18, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

There is much disinformation being distributed about, for example, Al Qaeda. No one seems to have assessed what they are doing, how many people there are, where they are located. This is simple stuff, raw intelligence stuff. Hm, I wonder why. You may want to look into this. Is it possible they are so small, so weak, that they couldnt attack us if they really wanted to?
Isn't it smarter to make them so mysterious that we can't assess them, so that people can be AFRAID, really AFRAID of them all the time? After all, they're connected to ... um, Saddam and Iraq ... Iran ... maybe Pakistan ... the Taliban in Afghanistan ... and under your bed.
One assessment shows them as a very small fragmented minority, which got lucky, remember, only because the cabin doors of the airliners weren't secured and pilots couldn't carry guns. I repeat this, One assessment shows them as a very small fragmented minority, which got lucky, remember, only because the cabin doors of the airliners weren't secured and pilots couldn't carry guns.
Now, whether or not that's true, I'd like to have some facts. Otherwise, as I'm fond of saying, there is no such thing as a "global war on terrorism"; it's like a "war on laziness", so vague it distorts the picture and is designed only to make you afraid.
Being afraid is not what intelligence gathering is about; precisely the reverse, so you can take the proper action. And Bush may not want to take that action. After all, Pakistan has already shown us that.

Posted by: OCPatriot on September 18, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone surprised that Andy Sullivan thinks Harris is making a profound insight? That's pretty much the kiss of death for Harris, right there.

Posted by: sglover on September 18, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Like I already said, you can't trust Muslims.

Posted by: janice on September 18, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'll start to mull over the idea that Islam itself is dangerous when people begin to treat innocent Muslims deaths at the hands of dictators and occupiers with the same righteous indignation that they display when a few thousand Muslims stage violent protests.

Or when General Boiken is condemned by Al. Whichever comes first.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist wrote:

Having said that, Harris ultimately proposes the same "solution" that he's been proposing to all problems of human existence, in all his writing, for years: eliminate all religion from human life, everywhere and forever.

I was being rhetorical, but thanks for the response I was looking for. This is exactly my point. Harris' solution is to eliminate religion! Hahahahahaha! I'd like to see his 10 point plan for implemnting that policy across the globe. It is ridiculous. I've got a solution for the energy crisis--how about we build turbines on the surface of the sun and run a power cord from here to there.

Posted by: eb on September 18, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

OCPatriot wrote: And Bush may not want to take that action. After all, Pakistan has already shown us that.

IMHO Bush deserves critcism for many things, but his handling of Pakistan has been masterful. This Islamic country is not a natural ally of ours, but we needed their cooperation to attack Afghanistan. Maybe OCPatriot think we should have attacked Pakistan. I think Bush was wise to maintain good relations with them.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 18, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

We didn't let Hitler and the Nazis define Christianity and we won't let Osama bin Laden and Sam Harris define Islam.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 18, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK
It's that broad support that we need to target, and that's why we should focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions. It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse.

Kevin, I generally regard you as one of the more reasoned voice on the Left, and so I ask you in all sincerity: how will public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions, force change in an Islamic belief system that holds Jihadboth violent and spiritualto be core tenants of the faith?

For diplomacy to work, there has to be compromise by both sides, and a millennia of practical experience shows us that Islam has no interest in compromising its beliefs. Perhaps you can show me examples to the contrary? I would be very encouraged if you could find some examples of a widespread call within Islam to denounce violent Jihad, but the simple fact of the matter is that this has not manifested, not in the wake of 9/11, and not in the widespread and on-going Muslim riots against Pope Benedict that call only for his compromising of principles, and not their own.

The public opinion in Muslim populationswhich even a cursory review of Islamic news sources and religious edicts will revealis that Islam is infallible. That is a core tenant of their belief system, and neither diplomacy, nor economic engagement, nor a use of multi-lateral institutions are going to begin to address this basic fact.

So please, please make a sincerely attempt to tell us why your ideas of dealing with Islam, which have been tried in centuries past in one variant or another, will achieve success now when to date they have only encountered failure.

I look forward to a reasoned response.

Posted by: Bob Owens on September 18, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you classify believers in an unexposed 9/11 conspiracy "fringe"? In the early run up to the current Iraq war what percentage of the population was willing to state unequivocally that every last claim of the President was a calculated lie or alteration of intelligence? Every claim about WMD's, aluminum tubes, mobile bio labs, nuclear capabilities, munition stockpiles, cost of the war, every single utterance an outright fiction? I'd say someone making that declaration was labeled extreme, off-base, out of touch, in denial, disloyal. You know, fringe. Christopher Columbus was probably fringe until he returned not having fallen off the end of the earth. Do I believe this government could have played a role in 9/11? Well, seeing as Bush and many of his supporters are Satan's spawn I suppose anything is possible.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 18, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote:

"The primary motivation behind the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts is nationalism, not religion."
______________

As may be true, but don't we need to find some other descriptive word? The terrorists zeal seems to cross national boundaries and the only word I can think of is Pan-Islamicism. But that brings religion into it, so there must be some sort of connection there.

Likewise, poverty might not have much to do with the motivations of the movement, however, I doubt very much that the typical suicide bomber is from among the middle class, educated types.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 18, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, answer your own challenge: if we are not at war with Islam itself (but only with certain whackos who all themselves Muslims), what IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

I wrote about this a long time ago (NRO, February 22, 2002, "The Theology's the Thing"), and so far as I can tell, nobody has moved the needle past that point.

So, you bought the ticket, take the ride: what is the Islam with which we are not at war?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

DJ in Jesusland: "We didn't let Hitler and the Nazis define Christianity and we won't let Osama bin Laden and Sam Harris define Islam."

I'll let the Muslims worry about who defines Islam. Mainstream Christians should be concerned with not letting George Bush, Pat Robertson and other militant fundamentalists speak to the world on their behalf.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 18, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Owens wrote: "I look forward to a reasoned response."

Where is your evidentiary argument that Islam is the source of the terrorism problem to begin with, as opposed to nationalist opposition to foreign occupation and oppression? The evidence -- see my previous post above -- indicates that suicide terrorism, at least, is overwhelmingly motivated by nationalism and desire for political self-determination, and has little or nothing to do with Islam or any religion.

You offer little more than a litany of vague, hyper-generalized condemnations of Islam, and no evidence that any of your generalities have any basis in fact. You offer little or nothing that anyone could make a "reasoned response" to.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler wrote: "poverty might not have much to do with the motivations of the movement, however, I doubt very much that the typical suicide bomber is from among the middle class, educated types."

Or, the opposite might be true.

As the article I linked to above said, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape's demographic studies of suicide terrorists found that "they are not uneducated, poor, mentally unstable, lacking in prospects, or young men expecting to spend paradise in the company of 72 virgins [...] they have higher incomes, intelligence and education, are deeply integrated into their communities, are highly politically conscious and from widely varied religious backgrounds."

This suggests that "the typical suicide bomber" is, in fact, "from among the middle class, educated types", but that by virtue of being "deeply integrated into their communities" and "highly politically conscious", these people are quite likely to be motivated by poverty as well as political and military oppression afflicting their societies.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Terrorism is a reaction to overwhelming force being used by technologically superior adversaries, who are almost always invaders, to destroy their nations.

Religion, as philosophy, tries to explain the volition that is required by the individual to act out political violence, whether the actor is on the side of the superior force or on the side of the oppressed. Religion informs both actors in the righteousness of their cause.

Mankind has a problem rationalizing its behavior and resorts to religion or ideology to explain its will to act. Germans killed Jews, not to appropriate their wealth, but because they were an inferior race. Bolsheviks killed the bourgeois, not to eliminate a political foe, but because of the historical dialectic. Puritans did not give typhoid infected blankets to Native Americans in order to steal their soon empty land, they did it because they were predestined and were fulfilling God's plan. A few Palestinian's do not become suicide bombers in order to lash out and kill anyone connected with the deaths of family members, they do it to fulfill the writings in the Koran. Zionists do not bulldoze houses with families inside in order to seize more territory and increase the size of the state, they do it because YWH has deemed them the chosen people. Oil companies do not offer the natives of the Ecuadoran forests a box of beads in order to steal the oil they live on top of, they do it because the invisible hand of the market dictates that only the laws of supply and demand be observed.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't read the comments yet. Wanted to say this first.

Kevin's critique doesn't go anywhere deep enough. Doctrinally, suicide in the name of jihad is actually quite proscribed and limited to circumstances of open warfare; only out-of-the-mainstream interpretations of Islam allow for it save under the most desperate of circumstances. Even in conservative interpretations of Islam, it is a last resort, not a means of conventional warfare. The suicides we hear about in the Mideast not pertaining to jihad are much more rightly considered the result of tribal, shame-based culture, where honor equates to life (suicides of rape victims, etc.)

Otherwise, it is at least as much a sin to commit suicide as a Muslim as it as at a Catholic. The NYT Mag piece this week on Gitmo is instructive. It covered the events around last year's three suicides, but of Islam were really a "death cult," you'd have to ask yourself -- why not a whole lot more serious attempts? Wouldn't 72 virgins be preferrable to being held indefinitely in what amounts to a concentration camp?

The inmates discussed the issues with the imams among them, and they had to look far and wide to find an exception to the Islamic suicide prohibition. Only if your death can directly aid the group in a desperate situation.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

>what is the Islam with which we are not at war?

Pretty much all of it we aren't. Not a lot of action on our part in Indonesia, for example.

>Run up a murder count in both of those columns and see which of those two

Notice how Janice, typical American, seems oblivious to the fact that the world extends outside US borders.

And to people like Janice the "real" world is not only confined to US borders but also what happened recently.

Got a passport? Get one.

Crank it back 60 years and you find 6 million Jewish corpses at the ugly end of Christianity.

Posted by: doesn't matter on September 18, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

One thing that is clear from this thread is that Americans are depressingly stupid. Although it makes many people, including the pope, feel all tingly pontificating on the true nature of Islam, you don't need to go back 1500 years to figure out what is going on.

Gamal Abdel Nasser
Hassan Al-Banna
The Muslim Brotherhood
Anwar Saddat
Egyptian Islamic Jihad
Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Read this and you will know who you are fighting and why. So put down that fourteen volume Arabic Tafseer of the Quran for a second and you might actually learn something.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Bah, you missed a perfectly good opportunity to use the word "nutpicking" in a sentance.

Posted by: plunge on September 18, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

During the rule by the Mughal dynasty, India retained its dominance as the leading economy in the world.

However, during the British rule, India's economy declined substantially, from being the country with the highest GDP in the world in 1800s to a basketcase when the British left in 1947.

So the British are bigger assholes than Muslims.

Posted by: sram on September 18, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK
Where is your evidentiary argument that Islam is the source of the terrorism problem to begin with, as opposed to nationalist opposition to foreign occupation and oppression?

How about 1,400 years of shouting "Allah Akbar!(God is Great!)" while carrying out military assaults, terrorist assaults, reprisal killing, Shaira court decisions and sectarian violence as evidence? I could point out that these same cries of Allah Akbar! were heard as Muslims slaughtered their way across Afghanistan a thousands years ago in a war of Islamist expansion against peaceable Hindu kingdoms, that, by the way, were not occupying nor oppressing Muslims.

Please, do not try to apply a very narrowly defined modern study of 315 suicide bombing over 23 years to the entire history of Islam. It clearly does not apply to the whole, nor does it excuse it.

And please, answer the questions I sincerely asked instead of formulating excuses to avoid an answer.

Posted by: Bob Owens on September 18, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

What is this "cult of death in the Muslim world" business? And even if said cult exists, why should we be so afraid of it?

The US and Israel have killed far more Muslims than vice versa over the last six years.

Consider:

Americans/Israelis killed by Muslims since 2000:
Approximately 6000 (about half of those in Iraq)

Muslims killed by Americans/Israelis since 2000:
At least 60,000+.(Iraq, Afghansitan, Lebanon, etc)

We're ahead in this game by at least a ten to one advantage. What's to worry about? We're kickin' ass here, and we always will.

Posted by: Lou Largo on September 18, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

I wasn't making an enemies list. I was attempting to show how we got from A to B.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's that broad support that we need to target, and that's why we should focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions.

That isn't going to work if the militants are successful militarily.

Besides, what economic engagement and multilateral institutions do you mean? The WTC was both, as are the world bank and the WTO. Investment, high technology and trade work, but not the UN or most NGOs. Most of the "broad support" that you seek is indifferent to the insitutions of modern western society that work. There is is Dubai, and a few others, but they are already on our side, engaged in the world economy and multilateral institutions.

I don't see multilateral insitutions and economic engagement having a lot of positive effects in Egypt, Syria, or Iran.

Someone has to defeat the militants first, or the "broad support" will swing behind the militants.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

So, you bought the ticket, take the ride: what is the Islam with which we are not at war?

Is this meant as a serious argument? Isn't it pretty obvious that, at worst, we are "at war" with a radical stripe of Islam?

Likewise, there are all kinds of Christian fundamentalists who say that abortion is murder, but the only ones we are "at war" with as a society are the ones who take the Eric Rudolph tack of killing "abortionists".

Is this kind of distinction hard to comprehend?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 18, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with eo.

In the US we have nuts like John Hagee who raise money and hire lobbyists to make sure that the ME is in perpetual war, because that is what his bible says to him is necessary for his messiah to return. He is even taking credit for keeping the US from preventing Israel's recent slaughter of 1500 Lebanese civilians (that's half the civ deaths on 9/11, for those keeping score).

Harris' analysis all boils down to racism and cultural bigotry. Someone should tell him that some terrorists are white and wear suits and ties.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

the government is withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from others planets.

How else do you explain George Bush?

Posted by: Thinker on September 18, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Harris makes me uncomfortable because he represents a strain of leftism -- often a hangover of formerly committed Socialists -- that I'd call secular atheist dogmatism. In here you'd put Chris Hitchens Orianna Falacci along with many regular commenters on this blog. Many lefties became deranged after 9/11 and decided to seek explanations in a one-dimensional slashing critique of all things Islamic, as part of their more broad scourging of religion generally.

Now I'm hardly more confortable with, say, Pope Benedict's clueless quotations of a 9th century Byzantine emperor to the effect of "my religion is better than yours, pbbbbbbt!" But at core, the atheist dogmatists share with Benedict and the traditionalists a fundamental support/belief in the idea of a cultural telos. That there is such a thing as "progress" out there, and various cultures can be rank-ordered in terms of their progressiveness.

Two of the great pillars of 20th century science are evolutionary biology and quantum physics. Both essentially underline the idea -- exceedingly threatening to determinists of all stripes -- that chaos plays a lot greater role in life and the universe than anyone would have previously cared to imagine. Deterministic paradigms have taken a severe beating in the past half-century or so, and reinforced the value of skepticism about any form of schematic explanations for broad phenomena. Man is evolving to be sure -- but towards what, exactly, we can't say. This is why there's another strain of agnostic leftism that sniffs with a very crinkly nose at the self-certainties of Harris and Hitchens and all other "progressives" who think they have a genuine handle on what entails a universal notion of cultural Progress.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Owens you seem to forget European armies marching to Jerusalem, singing, "Onward Christian soldiers..." swearing to take back the holy land from the savage muslims. There's enough violent religious extremism throughout the history of christianity to make the arguement that Christianity is a violent religion.
Look, people use religion as a way to justify their own selfish needs and immoral actions. As Hostile pointed out above, Christianity has it fair share of historically brutal behavior.

Posted by: D. on September 18, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Silly D.

Obviously the savage Muslims started it. They were trying to overthrow the world with all their crazy ideas, like bathing for example.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

So much to say...

But if Mr. Harris is going to slam liberals for failing to propose a robust alternative to Mr. Bush's "war on terror" why doesn't he do so himself?

#1) Like too many atheists, he comes awfully close to essentializing religion - specifically Islam - in this essay. There are to be sure pathologies inherent in Islamic doctrine that are playing themselves out in geopolitics today, just as there were pathologies inherent in Christian doctrine that were playing themselves out 500 years ago. This is another way of saying that a certain amount of historicism is appropriate to understanding the present conflict between the Islamic world and itself, and the present conflict between the Islamic world and the West. Reform is possible, and the most likely outcome.

#2) Mr. Harris like Peter Beinart and Andrew Sullivan falls for the incompetence canard. Like the neoconservatives and liberal hawks, I believe that that broad and deep political (as well as economic and cultural) reform in the Arab-Muslim world is the best hope for radically diminishing the threat of Islamist terrorism. But apart from the fact that there was no causus belli to invade Iraq under international law or traditional rules of war, sectarian civil war and ultimately the dissolution of the country was always going to be the most likely outcome; it didn't matter how many troops sent (although the level of corruption and nepotism in administering contracts and appointments was even more than the war itself an impeachment-worthy offense).

Iraq like so many Arab-Muslim countries is an immature historical and geographical fiction that never had time to cohere around a strong set of national institutions or national identity. Given even a modicum of democracy most if not all of these countries will likely dissolve along sectarian lines; the process may often be bloody. This fact should have been understood by the administration (and certainly was by any number of junior officers; the realities of the post-Cold War era are understood much better by the military than the civilian leadership), and should continue to be taken into account as we talk about and act on the need for "reform".

#3) This mischling understands Israel's concerns about Iran and the continued threat of Arab terrorism. But if poverty is not so much a root cause of radical Islamist political violence against the West (which resembles 19th and early 20th century anarchism more than anything else...its leaders are often wealthy, prominent men and its operatives often the middle class...read "the Possessed") it is almost certainly a root cause of Palestinian terrorism (as well as the continuing irresponsibility of the Palestinian leadership). If Israel can't open its borders to Palestinian workers and entrepeneurs (poverty is above 70% in the territories), why can't Israel work with America and the international community to create a fund for the full employment of every Palestinian head of household. Put them to work rebuilding their own country. Give them the dignity and security of a middle class job until there is a final peace. Despite the Mohammed Attas of the world, the middle class *is* less likely to engage in terrorism. This seems to me not only a good idea, and the mark of a mature Israel, but a responsibility.

#4) There should be little question that the Bush administration has abused its power in innumerable ways, including using new (and old) powers to hound progressive and anti-war NGOs. There should be little question that no provision of the Patriot Act is liable to prevent a major attack, or contribute in any serious way to winning the so-called war on terror (anymore than the suspension of Habeas Corpus helped the Union win the Civil War, or the radical curbs on civil liberties in the 1940s help America defeat Nazism and Japanese imperialism).

On other hand, the real problem with the Patriot Act is the one liberals aren't talking about. Federal law enforcement agencies had been seeking the powers in the act for decades, and close to 100% of the instances those power have been employed since the act was signed into law have been related to criminal case that have nothing to do with terrorism. Crime is at multi-decade lows, and America's prisons are its great and unacknowledged shame, warehousing a greater percentage of our population than any other country on earth, and in conditions worse than anywhere in the West (as well as some developing countries). The only places one finds out what is really happening in our prisons, and with our criminal justice system, are in leftist and libertarian publications; this is more than offensive.

Posted by: Linus on September 18, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

My response here.

Posted by: Greg Tinti on September 18, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Bob, nicely put. My one quibble is with your use of the term "chaos". In lay-speak, you use it correctly, but mathematically defined "chaos" is indeed deterministic (ie, not "random").

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

My take on radical religious fundamentalists is that they're basically a new violent strain of turn of the 20th century Luddites. They are bewildered by the head spinning pace, change and progress of modern society and wish to define the world through a midieval worldview; it's a sort of 'stop the world, I want to get off' view.

Posted by: Johnny Tremaine on September 18, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Secular,

I read the article by Pape. a couple of questions I have are, what percentage of the suicide bombers are muslims, especially if you drop out the Tamil Tiger events? Where are the suicide bombers in Iraq coming from...all local?

Have there been polls taken amongst muslim populations on their views of suicide bombers? What do they say?

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 18, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse.

I think that people who write that do not understand the threat. You haven't apprehended the nature of the attackers, or of the undecided in the middle.

Imams around the world have called for the assassination of Pope Benedict. The people in the middle are lots more interested in the question of whether the assassins will succeed or be defeated than they are interested in economic engagement or multilateral institutions. They view the interest in economic engagement and multilateral institutions both as our decadence that must be obliterated, and as our fatal flaw that will enable the Islamists to obliterate us. They will follow whoever wins the wars.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Imams around the world have called for the assassination of Pope Benedict.

Pat Robertson, Hugo Chavez. Idiot.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

Nice post. Agreed.

Like Linus and SecularAnimist, I believe that suicide terrorism (the moral existentialist horror that the West simply cannot wrap its mind around because it cannot be deterred) is more the result of a *tactical* calculation in primarily nationalist struggles that people use religion to justify *after the fact*. Suicide is forbidden in Islam. For a Muslim to throw away his or her life for a cause, s/he needs a persuasive justification. So the doctrines are bent to fill this void and give the would-be martyr a sense of righteousness before committing what s/he knows would otherwise be a mortal sin.

Again, if the religion of Islam were a "death cult" and 72 black-eyed virgins such a motivating force -- where are the mass suicide attempts at Gitmo?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

After 9/11 Tim McVeigh caused the largest loss of American lives from a terrorist event on US soil. McVeigh was neither a Muslim nor a nationalist, and he certainly wasn't a Christian.

Broad generalizations about terrorists often merely serve to re-affirm personal biases and lead to poor public policy.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 18, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

While it's fine and good that Harris wags his finger and thinks dark thoughts, I would respect him more if he followed his logic to its necessary conclusion--namely, that Muslims must be eradicated. Of course, that would constitute a reasoning far more awful than anything in the Islamic faith we're attempting to combat, but at least it would be honest.

Posted by: Mark on September 18, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo:

That's precisely the paradox. It's micro-level determinacy (think fractal iterations) producing macro-level uncertainty. It's the simple leading inevitably to the complex -- which is, of course, one of the biggest mental stumbling blocks the argument-by-design folks just can't get over when they consider how such brute and simplistic elemental forces lead to something as complex as a human being -- or global climate.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Bob:

One of the biggest shocks in my life as a Muslim was when I heard that Yusuf Al-Qaradawi ruled that suicide bombings were lawful against military targets in Israel. He had been against it previously.

He was one of the most respected scholars at the time and considered fairly moderate. I've always felt that this was a political, rather than religious decision.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if someone invaded my country and completely destroyed it and didn't accomplish thing one to put it back together again I would probably (no, definitely) become a terraist.

And I'm not Muslim.

Posted by: JB (no, not the U.N. John Bolton) on September 18, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Oh wait, I suppose there is one other avenue besides extermination: conversion. But who believes that the conversion of billions of Muslims is possible? No, if Harris takes his own words seriously--if he believes that aggression is endemic to Islam and that the security of the West is an uncompromisable objective--than he is advocating nothing less than a Holocaust.

And Andrew "let's not torture" Sullivan agrees. How bizarrely inconsistent.

Posted by: Mark on September 18, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly fumbles: "isn't it obvious that at worst, we are at war with a stripe of Islam?"

If that's how you think, it'd help if, yanno, you actually added a THOUGHT or two to the process.

It's easy to say 'we're at war with the Islam that(or if you're delicate, 'with those Muslims who')sends suicide bombers to kill ordinary people on airplanes, in office buildings and pizza parlors.'

But that says nothing about Islam itself, and it especially skips the critical part, which is whether folks who do such crimes are acting properly as Muslims, or not.

If they are, then we are at war with the faith of 1.2 billion people, the fastest growing religion on the planet.

If we're not, then -- we should be able to answer my question.

That's why I asked Kevin the question in the way I did: what is the Islam with which we are NOT at war?

The fact is, we are trying to fight a war against ... "a stripe of Islam", as Frankly puts it, without a clue about the theology.

We didn't win the Cold War without ideology. We won BECAUSE our ideology was better than theirs.

Take the hint, Kevin. Then answer the question.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

-- where are the mass suicide attempts at Gitmo?

You're such an ignorant tool...

Between January and March 2003, 14 prisoners at Guantanamo tried to kill themselves, according to Pentagon figures. That's more than 40 percent of the 34 suicide attempts by 21 inmates since the prison was opened in January 2002.

Inmates at the US "war on terror" detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba tried to prevent US forces from helping one of four detainees who tried to commit suicide, a spokesman said.

Quit drinking bongwater and try to post something that doesn't reveal just how far your head has been shoved up your rear end, mmmkay?

Posted by: rmck1 WATCH on September 18, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I've always wondered about the virgins. Will they all get their own? - or will they have to share? Cause honestly, a couple million martyrs with only 72 virgins doesn't sound like a great deal - especially not for the virgins. And what about the female martyrs? Wouldn't they be better off with one guy who knows what he's doing?

Posted by: Randy on September 18, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat:

You know, your posts have such a *tone* of reasoned, moderated civility -- but every once in a while you let loose with such an egregious whopper that you need to be thwacked every bit as hard as we thwack Jay or rdw or GOP.

"Imams around the world have called for the assassination of Pope Benedict."

BULL FUCKING SHIT. Back this up, or fucking *apologize* for the libel. Muslim imams around the world have expressed displeasure and discomfort, called the "apology" fake or impartial (which it was) -- but they have also called for *restraint.*

Show me your links to all of those death-to-Benedict fatwas recently penned out there -- or, with all due respect, S.T.F.U.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Al said: "all reasonable and rational people believe in Christianity. Only irrational and unreasonable people don't believe in Christianity."

Wow, Al, you just smeared 75% of the world's population.

I don't think I've ever seen a more blatant example of unabashed bias and/or rank stupidity.

My apologies if Al is being ironic or sarcastic.

Posted by: ME on September 18, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if someone invaded my country and completely destroyed it and didn't accomplish thing one to put it back together again I would probably (no, definitely) become a terraist.

All true patriots would.

Most Republicans, however, would certainly become collaborators.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I would argue with Harris' initial assumption that a huge portion of Muslims are violent and want to "kill all the infidels." He makes this assertion with nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

Posted by: Katherine on September 18, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

ad-hom persecution troll:

Read the NYT Mag article, it's fascinating and deals with precisely that history. Three successful suicides last year. And a large-scale hunger strike -- which the camp in large part ameliorated by communicating with sheiks and detainee leaders and negotiating for better conditions.

Sure, there are going to be fanatics. Of those 14, I'd imagine they referred to the inmates who hoarded psych meds and then all tried to OD simultaneously. None of them were in jeopardy of losing their lives.

But of a population of @ 400 inmates, most of them sharing hardcore Islamist beliefs if not necessarily guilty of actionable offenses -- you'd certainly think that number would be far greater if Islam were a genuine "death cult," no?

Consider the circumstances of Gitmo. Nearly all of these guys haven't a clue of how long they'll be there, or even if they'll ever get out at all. A substantial number of them are "security detainees" who are being held without charge for the duration of "the war on terrorism."

Tad bit more demoralizing that doing time for Grand Theft Auto. Given Harris' beliefs about Islam, a reasonable person (of which you're obviously not) should certainly be surprised why there isn't more.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I really got a kick out of the pope's "apology". Something along the lines of being very sorry that people were upset by what he said - but not that he was sorry for saying it.

Posted by: Randy on September 18, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

But that says nothing about Islam itself, and it especially skips the critical part, which is whether folks who do such crimes are acting properly as Muslims, or not.

Many Christians believe that abortion is murder, and that "abortionists" are murderers.

So was Eric Rudolph "acting properly" as a Christian when he killed "abortionists"?

Answer the question!

Posted by: frankly0 on September 18, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

BULL FUCKING SHIT. Back this up, or fucking *apologize* for the libel. Muslim imams around the world have expressed displeasure and discomfort, called the "apology" fake or impartial (which it was) -- but they have also called for *restraint.*

A HARDLINE cleric linked to Somalia's powerful Islamist movement has called for Muslims to "hunt down" and kill Pope Benedict XVI for his controversial comments about Islam.


Posted by: Red State Mike on September 18, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Here are two quotes from the Harris screed that leave me confused:

First, "This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims."

But later, "The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists."

So, liberals fail to realize the "threat that Islam poses" and thereby risk becoming "irrelevant" (note that Harris is an alleged liberal using these frames). And it's the fascists who have the most sensible approach?? So what the hell exactly does Harris propose? Is he in favor of invading Iran and Syria? Does he want to round up all Muslims in the US and Europe and put them in camps? Should we invade all Muslim countries and forcibly convert them to Christianity?

I favor redeploying our forces against al Qaeda and trying to capture Bin Laden instead of having them play referee in the Iraqi civil war. I favor getting serious about non-proliferation efforts instead of ignoring the problem (Russia) or exacerbating it (Pakistan). And I favor enhancing our domestic infrastructure with cargo screening and more funding for first responders to detect and respond to terrorist threats.

How the fuck, Sam Harris, does that make me soft on terrorism?

Fuck Sam Harris, he's just a crazy-ass wingnut.

Posted by: Sean on September 18, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike,

Your big quote seems to indicate that there's ONE cleric calling for the Pope's assassination.

Do you understand that one is a very small number?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 18, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Christians around the world have called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez....

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

...Harris' initial assumption that a huge portion of Muslims are violent and want to "kill all the infidels."

Just for clarity's sake, the Arabic word for "infidel" is "Kafir", which comes from the word "Kafara". "Kafara" means to cover, as in the way a farmer would cover a seed. The analogy is that a "Kafir" is one that knows about the rightness of Islam, but chooses to fight against it regardless. In Islamic history, the Pagans of Saudi Arabia were the main example of Kafirs.

Other classifications of non-muslims include:

Jahil = Someone who is ignorant of Islam. Islam forbids making war with these people except in self-defence.

Ahlal Kitab = The people of the Book (Christians). Muslim men can marry Christian women. These women are not required to convert to Islam. Islam says many christians will go to heaven.

Yahood or Bani Israel = Jews. Same as above.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0,
Your big quote seems to indicate that there's ONE cleric calling for the Pope's assassination.

Do you understand that one is a very small number?

What do you expect for a 5 minute google? So it's a tie score, 1 Pope versus 1 Cleric.

This from the Scripps people that took the conspiracy poll...


Members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with only a high school education and Democrats were especially likely to suspect federal involvement in 9/11.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 18, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

mhr:

George W. Bush was endorsed by the Arab American Institute in 2000. Imams, in mosques throughout the country encouraged Muslims to vote for Bush because his values were more in line with those of Islam.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Sam Harris. If Democrat's don't use national security to their own advantage, we'll just have ceded it to the asshole Republicans.

Posted by: Boorring on September 18, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Okay, at the risk of being gratuitously flamed for no other reason than you have difficulty sharing ideas in a civil manner, let me take a whack at your question:

First, it doesn't strictly parse if you don't believe that we're at war with a religion per se -- and many of us here don't. Our foe is not Islam, which is a religion. Our foe is Islamism, which is a political ideology.

What are the elements of this ideology that are intolerable? First, the ideas of Sayyid Qutb, with which you're familiar because we've talked about it. But this only influences al Qaeda and their sister organizations, so is an extremely small number of ideologues in a religion of billions.

More significantly, it's the ideology of takfir -- something which Qutb revived, but which is more dangerous because it comes from commentaries dating from the time that Islam was ascendent and bent on world conquest. It's also shared by Deobandi Taliban as well as Sunni Salafists.

Who we're *not* at war with?

Saudi Wahabis. Conservative Islam is not a threat to the West, as is in fact a major target of takfiris who believe that it's righteous to kill Mulims and overthow un-righteous Muslim regimes. Wahabi madrasses education is dangerous to the extent that it implants a literal-mindedness in students which can be exploited by local ideologues, but that's different. Salafism is the stand-alone, exportable Sunni fundamentalist doctrine that lends itself to support of violent extremism. Wahabism is, strictly speaking a homegrown product of Saudi Arabia.

In truth, our opposition should be directed to any individual Sunni imam or Shi'ite clerical school that justifies the killing of non-combatants in the name of furthering political goals.

Anything else is just cultural difference that we in the West would certainly never submit to (e.g. the Saudi flavor of Shariah corporal punishment), but which hardly threatens our existence in the West.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

From a Times article regarding the Pope's apology:

The pope has apologized, and thats enough, so lets calm down, said Hasym Muzadi, head of Indonesias largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which has 30 million members. If we remain furious, then the pope will be considered correct.

In Turkey, Ali Bardakloglu, the nations highest cleric, who was among the most strident in his criticism of Benedict, said he welcomed the popes apology.

His expression of sadness is a sign that he would work for the world peace, he said. We, religious leaders, have to admit our mistakes when necessary and set an example for people in every way.

The Muslim Council in Britain called the popes words exactly the reassurance many Muslims were looking for.

Doesn't this make it pretty obvious that most kinds of Muslims DON'T regard assassinating the Pope as consistent with their beliefs?

Yes, there are Muslims who DO call for his death -- but there are crazies amongst any large group, right?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 18, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, you don't know who you're talking to. Get a clue. Check the NRO story I mentioned, then get back to us.

(Do YOU know who Jamil Diab was? Ever talk to W. Deen Muhammad? Hassan al-Bana's grandson? Show us your depth... cuz so far, you'd drown in the spit on mucilage.)

Chewtoy, most folks who know anything about Wahabism figure THAT is the most virulent of all the anti-American forms of Islam; and not a few think it was on the Saudis' say-so that Tariq Ramadan was barred from the U.S., because he is an outspoken critic of Wahabism. (Some folks find in this the echo of the Saud family's struggle with the Ikhwan in 1929.)

It's not a complicated question, "what is the Islam with which we are not at war?"

It's just that, unlike the chewtoy, you actually have to KNOW something to answer it intelligently.

Well, Kevin? What is the Islam with which we are not at war? Put another way, what is the Muslim THEOLOGY that is is compatible with what we quaintly think of as civilization?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

mhr typed: "There is no doubt that liberal Democrats are very solicitous of the rights of terrorists."

There is no doubt that you are a brain-dead, brainwashed, ignorant, weak-minded neo-brownshirt Bush-bootlicking mental slave who is incapable of doing anything other than regurgitating the turds that you gobble from Rush Limbaugh's stinking toilet bowl and the bile that you slurp from the toxic sewer that is Fox News.

You have no capacity for independent thought. You think what you are told to think and you say what you are told to say. You are a mental slave.


You have enslaved your mind to right-wing extremist bullshit propaganda. Only you can emancipate yourself from this mental slavery. But you won't, because you want to be a grovelling, bootlicking slave.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you talk to people like this, theAmericanist? Do you really not understand how unbalanced and filled with inappropriate rage it makes you sound?

Posted by: thePsychologist on September 18, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Harris is correct to identify the threat posed by religious extremism. He did so with his book and he does so again in this article. The outstanding question is how to address these threats. Racial prejudice may not be perfectly analogous, but I think it offers some insight into the perils of unbridled extremist ideologies on both sides of a conflict. Our own Civil War points out the potential for ideology to lead to violent conflict. How we address religious extremism may well demonstrate what we did or didnt learn from our own experience.

However, identifying the threat and crafting the solution are two distinct endeavors. Harris clearly identifies the threat but seems more inclined to then pivot and blame liberalism for our inability to confront the issue rather that offer any reasoned solutions. By acknowledging that liberalism is "generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity" and at the same time blaming it for not combating religious literalism is incongruent logic. In reality, liberalism clearly understands the dangers of religious literalism which is exactly why it promotes reasonability and tolerance. Further, that understanding is why liberals believe that the war in Iraq and the war on terror will ultimately require political solutions rather than an ever expanding military strategy.

As world population and a world economy continue to expand, our abilities to prevent the inherent racial, cultural, and religious clashes that come with proximity will become more challenging. Succumbing to the absolutism that accompanies any us/them equation is certain to trigger accelerated conflict. It is essential we refrain from adopting a broad brush strokes mentality. A reactionary strategy is nothing more than the fuel for escalation. In the end, it is individuals who define the differences upon which conflict is predicatedwhether they be Islamist, Liberal, or otherwise. It will be the politics of leadership that will eventually bridge the divide.

Read more here:

www.thoughttheater.com

Posted by: Daniel DiRito on September 18, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

According to you, *nobody* knows enough who posts here to have an intelligent conversation about anything. All flaming me does is put me into the same group with *every single person* who's tried to have a discussion with you.

So I consider myself in good company :) You know, if you were so genuinely interested in helping the Democrats along to the right ideas as you've always said you are -- you might've gotten the message at some point that dialogue is more effective than a self-important lecture. But maybe you have your own issues -- whatever.

Anyway -- the Saudi *state religion* is not a threat to the West -- although it's extremely conservative and hypersensitive to criticism from within and without. There's some dissident scholarship going on among Saudis (I dunno if W. Deen Muhammad is one of the movers on this; my guess would be so) that's doing a heremenuetic reading of the Koran and the hadiths (much like the welcome historicism of the German Higher Critics who started textually analyzing the Bible), and have put forth the theory that Mohammed's first community was substantially different than the image of it propagated by Wahabi/Salafi fundamentalism. Their argument is that a 9th century caliphate dynasty (starts with a U -- forget the name off the top of my head) distorted the teachings in order to use Islam as a pillar of their political rule. Out of this comes much of the inequality, especially towards women but also towards non-Muslims.

If this scholarship is true (and it's an empirical question), then Islam is in essence both highly egalitarian and completely amenable to democracy. You can certainly understand how the clerical power structure of Saudi Arabia would find that sort of thing worth repressing with an iron fist.

"Wahabi," incidentally, is a term with little useful value. Saudis consider it an insult -- and other Muslims use it as an anti-Saudi slur. The more accurate doctrinal term for full-blown Sunni fudamentalism is Salafi. The export of Saudi-funded madarasses schools is not without serious issues; strict Islamic education consists of rote memorization of an Arabic text considered the direct word of God from the Angel Gabriel and not merely written by divinely inspired humans. This leads to the purging of critical thinking from education. No wonder why Salafi clerics spend so much time obsessing over the evils of "innovation."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Daniel DeRito wrote: "Harris is correct to identify the threat posed by religious extremism."

Harris incorrectly conflates the threat of terrorism with the alleged "threats" -- whatever they may be -- of "religious extremism".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 18, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

what is the Islam with which we are not at war?

There is no Islam with which people like mhr, Bob Owens, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley, James Hagee, Red State Mike, Randy, Al and Sam Harris are not at war with. They all want to commit a war of annihilation against Muslims. Muslims who are patriots to their nations. Muslims who love their children and desire they obtain a good education. Muslims who believe the natural resources of their respective countries should be used to improve the lives of the citizens of those countries. Muslims who do not collaborate with with invaders. Muslims who do not obey the diktats of President Bush.

The Islam with which we are not at war is the one that allows US oil companies to reap maximum profits.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

(sigh) Shrink, THIS is why I talk to idiots like they are fools:

(http://cityofbrass.blogspot.com/2004/08/tariq-ramadan-us-and-them.html)

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

I know this response is coming a bit late, and Harris is nuts...

...But there'a often a kernal of truth.

We need to fight those who think the words are more important than the meaning - in both Islam and Christianity. These are the sots that force rote memorization of the Koran without teaching the person Arabic - in direct violation of the teachings. Or want to subvert science and reason by replacing it with some translation of Genesis.

We need to focus on Jihad - the struggle - we have Jihad in our culture as well: The fight against cancer, the fight against drugs, the fight against obesity, the fight against poverty... Liberals are on the forfronts of these fights.

They're not as sexy to young minds as direct fighting with a gun, but they are far, far more powerful.

And we forget to point these things out.

Posted by: Crissa on September 18, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

I would be curious to hear how Mr. Harris describes the Native American Ghost Warriors. Would they also be a cult of death, informed from their native spirituality, that threatened the Western world?

That white buffalo is about to explode.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

How does that excuse your rhetorical behavior?

If you have some nifty information about Tariq Ramadan you think we all should know -- why not just *share* it?

Why act like a smug, self-important blowhard just because this is something that you've read and we haven't?

You honestly think that *browbeating* us or attempting to shame us because *we haven't already read it* is going to get us to read the link -- as opposed to, you know, just dismissing you and your ill-mannered behavior out of hand?

Ever thought of trying to become part of the solution instead?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

as I wrote: "Imams around the world have called for the assassination of Pope Benedict."

One of them was in Great Britain.

I should however clarify one thing that is ambiguous in my sentence. I did not intend to write "all Imams in the world ... ." Only that in every part of the world there are at least a few imams who have made this call.

In Iraq the Imam Ali al-Sistani has called for peaceful but energetic support of the elected Iraqi government. A competitor imam, Muqtada al Sadr, is essentially leading militia in combat against Sunnis and other targets of opportunity. Most Iraqis do indeed support the elected government, but the energy of the militias may overwhelm the peacefulness of the majority. So the militants have to be defeated militarily, with US help if necessary.

On the larger stage of the whole world, there is a n aggressive violent Moslem leadership spreading "submission" by militant means. Those people must be defeated militarily before the moderates will pay any attention to the liberal policies favored by liberals.

Leading up to WWII, militants hijacked the governments of Germany and Japan. As long as those militants were successful, as they were for a long time (especially for Japan), the majorities in those nations did not oppose them. The majorities in Germany and Japan responded to the multilateral institutions and economic engagement after their militant leaders had been defeated militarily.

I side with Democrats on some things, such as: Social Security is good; it is a low-yield, low risk investment, and every portfolio should have some low-yield, low-risk assets. On the issue of defeating militant Islam militarily I side with the Republicans.

The broad Moslem support will go to the winners of the "military" conflict. I use the quotes because the suicidal terrorist attacks are not quite what "military" ordinarily means. The Islamists do aim for the usual political goals of war: territorial conquest and subjugation of the peoples in those territories. They call it "submission to the will of God", but the effect is "submission" to politico-religious leaders -- unelected men holding all the military and police power. Because their means are military, they must be defeated militarily.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

They all want to commit a war of annihilation against Muslims.

There is no crime that a muslim can commit in the name of Allah, no head removed, no artist slain in the middle of the street, no threat to kill over cartoon caricatures, no act of mass murder of civilians, no hiding behind civilians in violation of the laws of war, that you won't apoligize for and justify on their behalf. You treat them like little children, not responsible for their own acts, and turn your head when they "misbehave".

Are you a Truther too?

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 18, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

earlier message: W. Deen Muhammad = Tariq Ramadan.

Brainfart. I just think W. Deen Muhammad is an extremely cool name, so it gets stuck in my head :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I did not intend to write "all Imams in the world ... ." Only that in every part of the world there are at least a few imams who have made this call.

Yes, there was that one really just tring to say "Boo-urns"

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how Harris doesn't tell us what we should DO about this problem. Are we supposed to kill tens of millions of Muslims? Invade and occupy dozens of countries? Just bomb everybody? No solution is presented.

Posted by: Red on September 18, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Bob: I saw W. Deen give a speech once. And I met "Raaag" from What's Happening, the guy who played him in X, on the same day.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat:

I'm sorry; that message really doesn't cut it. "All around the world?" Okay prove it -- "One was in Britain" doesn't cut the mustard. Haven't heard any death-sentence fatwas from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Moktada (though he was pissed to be sure). Heard of some unhinged clerical remarks from such bastions of calm leadership as Somalia. Dunno what the imams have said in either the West Bank or Gaza.

Also, you give your game away with "Moslem." That hasn't been standard for a good 60 years.

There's no better evidence of how flayed you were on this point than the fact that you instantly changed the subject and began talking about militias in Iraq -- as if that has anything to do with the potential of worldwide Islamic violence against the Pope.

There will be no Popeifada. Those comments were extremely ill-advised and his "apology" was disingenuous (why use a 9th-century Byzantine emperor to make a point about *anything*?) -- but Muslims know that they have an ally in the Catholic Church both on social issues like abortion and on a broad-based critique of decadent secularism.

This was just a dumb move on Benedict's part. Doubtless he's learned and he'll be more diplomatic in the future. Doubtless most of the Muslim outrage has been at least mollified to an extent by his expressing deep personal regret at the pain his comment caused (even if that doesn't quite amount to a genuine apology).

We really don't need to overstate the conflict the West has with religious extremism by distorting world reactions to unfortunate statements.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

"we should focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions."

Kevin, that sure sounds like solutions to economic issues, not the source of our trouble with Islam. Looming Tower is the best source so far. Read it. Pretty good comments section today. People are learning but maybe not fast enough. I don't think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are learning, though.

Posted by: Mike K on September 18, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Chewtoy, this is why I do what you consider "rhetoric" -- you asked "why use a 9th-century Byzantine emperor to make a point about *anything*?"

(sigh) The guy the Pope quoted ruled from the end of the 14th century until early in the 15th. Before he became emperor, the guy has been a hostage in the Ottoman court, so he was thoroughly educated in Islam, and an eyewitness to what he described.

His son, btw, was the one who finally lost Constantinople, which is still the definitive military triumph of Islam. Quoting Paleologos was quoting the losing side in a very big war.

So the Pope didn't pick this guy at random -- but, Lord! how you guys grab stray concepts out of the air, like straw in the whirlwind of all your talk, talk, talk.

See what I mean, chewtoy? The leader of a billion Catholics says something that a billion.two Muslims just might find inflammatory -- and you can't even be bothered to understand it, before you have what you still consider to be "opinions". (but hey, you can lecture me about saying Wahabi instead of Salafi. Shows what you think is important, huh?)

Jason: did you READ the link?

Kevin: gonna answer the question?

What IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Islam with which we are not at war is the Islam that allows US oil companies to reap maximum profits.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

His son, btw, was the one who finally lost Constantinople, which is still the definitive military triumph of Islam. Quoting Paleologos was quoting the losing side in a very big war.

Funny, this sounds vaguely familiar. I wonder how George H.W. Bush feels about Islam.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ann Coulter scares me much more than most Islamic religious leaders. Islam does NOT teach hatred or violence, but can be intepreted that way by extremists or fundamentalists. Much as snippets of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations can be interpreted that way by Christian extremists or fundamentalists.

Whereas Ann Coulter is constantly spreading lies and hatred on many of our major networks and in many of our major new magazines - none of which I view or read anymore by the way...

Posted by: Brian on September 18, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Harris is partly right, but it is not Islam we have to fear. It if fundamentalism - whether Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Zoroastrian. It seems to me that some people cannot cope with the modern world and their response is a retreat fetishistic medievalism, fundamentalism and apocalypic yearning for death. Hence we get Bin Laden and Eric Rudolph, McVeigh and Zaqarwi, Al Sadr and Pat Robertson.

We have to take care not to stain the Muslims or the Christians with the taint of these people whose moral and theological development is stuck in the Middle AGes.

Posted by: Kija on September 18, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Americanist,
I think Kevin might be more interested in a discussion with you if you showed some inkling of desire for an adult dialogue instead of playing juvenile word games.

Posted by: smuggler on September 18, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Those who've pointed out that the danger is fundamentalismno matter the brandis the problem are right. Harris is also right about religion in general and Islam in particular. Way too many adherents of Islam will not be happy until the entire world is bent to their way of thinking. It's as if all Miller drinkers decided that Budweiser drinkers were evil and misguided and had to be converted by force to drinking their beer.

Read the writings of many of our Foundersthose whom we venerate, but to whom we never listenon organized religion. Washington and Jefferson among many other great thinkers, broke the code centuries ago. If you can believe the Bible, Jesus Christ even addressed this. And it isn't favorable to any fundies of any stripe.

Organized religion: Shell game, three card monte, whatever you want. Just another means of picking peoples' pockets. Humbug.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on September 18, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Harris has some catching up to do if he wants to join the conversation.

He also needs to start looking at rational, scientific arguments along the lines of Robert Pape, and include these in his analysis.

As for Islam being a violent religion, I've been doing much research on this lately, and the evidence is overwhelmingly against this conclusion.

There are violent rejectionists and movements in seemingly all popular religious and ideological movements throughout history.

The very slim minority of Muslims who are extremely radical Muslim rejectionists advocating violence and military solutions to their perceived threats says nothing about the religion of Islam.

Posted by: Jimm on September 18, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

The most common trait of those arguing for the inherent violence of Islam is an overreliance on and uncritical reading of Western Orientalists, which is tainted in various measures by favoritism towards Western rationalist and/or Christian views, and often greatly oversimplifying and distorting (cherry picking) the actual traditions and views of Islam.

That Harris would base his analysis on prior "expert" opinions of rationalist Orientalists is no surprise, but there is a growing body of work showing these Orientalist analyses to be widely off the mark. As these become more widespread, Harris will look foolish for relying upon them, since he has no other appeal to authority or knowledge about Islam, of which he is no expert, or for religion, which he finds no value.

Posted by: Jimm on September 18, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Americans, led by the neo-con ideology and the mass media, think religion informs Muslim individuals to commit violence. Those same Americans do not think the Christian religion informed the Nazis to kill Jews, although almost all Nazis were baptized and Catechized. Those same Americans do not think the Christian religion informed American Southerners to keep slaves in the very worst conditions imaginable, although almost all American Southerners were baptized. Those same Americans do not think the Christian religion informed European migrants to kill Native Americans and steal their lands, although most European migrants were baptized. Those same Americans do not think the Christian religion informed doctors to give syphilis to African-American men and then just document the progression of the disease, although they had been trained in Christian ethics. Those same Americans do not think the Christian religion informed American scientists to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction. Those same Americans do not think Christianity informed the torturers at Abu Ghraib prison, although many came from the 'Bible Belt.'

It is only our enemies who are informed by religion. We are only informed with the very best intelligence and logic and knowledge. That is why we overthrow democracies and replace them with dictatorships.

Posted by: Hostile on September 18, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

If a Muslim condemns violent Islamists, and Michelle Malkin doesn't link to it, did it really happen?

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, you don't know who you're talking to. Get a clue.

It's whom, not who, as in "you don't know whom you're talking to" or "you are the one for whom the clue is needed."

Also, the correct answers are "Salafi" or "Qutbists" (not Wahabi) and "the capture of Jerusalem."

You lost on Jeopardy, baby.

Posted by: the Grammaricanist on September 18, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Qutbists is really quite a stretch, Grammaricanist. Perhaps a little more time with literature and comprehension, and a little less with the grammatical structures, will do you some good.

Posted by: Jimm on September 18, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

more non-bad news from Iraq:

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/sept2006/a091806wm2.html

remember: when god gives you sugar make lemonade.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Qutbist

That's really cute, in a special olympics kind of way.

The reason we are losing the war on terror has nothing to do with the difference between Salafi's and Wahhabi's, and everything to do with the difference between Sunni's and Shiites. As in, the Preznit doesn't know that said difference exists.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK
The word Qutbee is said to have first been used by Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Muslims to refer not only to explicit devotees of Qutb's ideas, but to Muslim Brotherhood members and their sympathizers in general (despite the fact that there is a range of opinion among Muslim Brethren on Qutb's ideas.) The word Qutbee is similar in its use (though not its meaning!) to the term Wahhabi, in that it is used not by the Qutbees and Wahhabis themselves but by their opponents.

What's hilarious about these few sentences is they tell us that a collection of individuals (identified by a term conflating all of these individuals together, coined by others who oppose their ideas) seem to have gave a misleading and oversimplifying name (again conflating) to another collection of individuals (who they oppose).

And so the Tower of Babel is built, whereby fictional groups are created and named who are then identified as the source of other fictional groupings and namings. :)

Maybe it's time for a little actual dialogue and identification of others as they identify themselves, so we can cut through the nonsense and get to the crux of the issues and conflicts.

Posted by: Jimm on September 18, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist: ...you don't know who you're talking to.

Sure we do.

Posted by: pssst....wanna buy a green card? on September 18, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds like the latest version of the academic whackball theory game has become Smack-All-Libs. Lots of people looking for some of that rightwing harpie money that the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the world get.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 18, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: True enough. Althought it is probably appropriate to thank the West for at least coming to grips with calling us Muslims, rather than Mohammadans. Progress is progress.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm
The very slim minority of Muslims who are extremely radical Muslim rejectionists advocating violence and military solutions to their perceived threats says nothing about the religion of Islam.

It's not so much the minority of radical muslims that worry me, as it is the silence of the rest of them. Where is the million man march to regain their religion from the fundies who have hijacked it? Where are the brave voices countering the radicals? Women advocating for more rights and less misogyny?

It's not something that anyone in the west can do. We can only sit back and watch and wait for their religion to heal itself from within. And I'm not seeing it. That worries me.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 18, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1:Also, you give your game away with "Moslem." That hasn't been standard for a good 60 years.

there is no "correct" transliteration, and the word is pronounced differently in different dialects anyway, so that is a negligible difference. It's the same with Koran and Qu'ran: multiple pronunciations and no uniquely correct transliteration. and "Khadaffi" and "Qatar".

The reference to the militias in Iraq, like the reference to militaristic Japan and Germany, was analogical. Note that, unlike a few other posters who make anti-Islamic comments like mine, I distinguish between a minority of Moslems and the majority of Moslems, in the same way that I distinguish between a minority of Germans and Japanese, and the majority of them. What all three of these analogies have in common is the necessity to defeat the violent extremists first, and then appeal to the multilateral institutions and the economic engagement later.

The best analogy for Islamists now is not Christians now, but Christians at the time of the 30 Years' War and the slaughter of the Huguenots, before the Enlightenment.

Those comments were extremely ill-advised and his "apology" was disingenuous (why use a 9th-century Byzantine emperor to make a point about *anything*?) -- but Muslims know that they have an ally in the Catholic Church both on social issues like abortion and on a broad-based critique of decadent secularism

I disagree with you there. What he said was that Christianity had been enlightened and broadened by the Enlightenment, and that Islam needed approximately the same enlightenment and broadening by being more open to reason. He said that secularists were wrong not to see the Deity in reason; that is not a critique of secularism that Islam and Christianity both share.

It was a 14th century Byzantine emperor, not a 9th century Byzantine emperor. And the point was to highlight the resemblence of some aspects of Islam to the narrowness of Christianity before the Enlightenment, a time when it was rejecting reason.

Since "Islam" does mean "Submission" (to the will of God is implicit, not explicit), it's fun to rewrite some sentences inserting "Submissiion" in place of "Islam". for example, "submission" rejects the Enlightenment.

I always look forward to you comments. Not everyone calling for the assassination of Pope Benedict is in fact an Imam. The Briton I alluded to is a lawyer and a political leader, not an ordained Imam. There was at least one Imam in each of: Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia. That's in addition to the three in Somalia. I am omitting links as a tease -- this will coninue for a while, and I'll see how it plays out. there is still that Afghan purportedly on a journey to Denmark to kill the Jyllenposten (?) cartoonists. If in a few days I have not read even more of the fatwas against the Pope, I'll apologize for being wrong.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the extremists hold the cards. I have rarely heard moderate muslims condemn acts of barbarism, and am sick of this double standard that applies towards a violent mass of people (islamic extremists). Insult a muslim, you are to apologize or face death by throngs. Get insulted by a muslim, face little of nothing. I would feel better if we showed some damn backbone. I don't hate muslims, but I am starting to get tired of their bitching. I'd love to help their poor and deprived, if it didn't mean to submit to their backward beliefs (not religious here).

Sam Harris is a very smart man, and I feel the ones calling him "nuts" might be too dismissive. I am in the process of reading his book, and so far it is a devastating critique of religion in general, and has caused me to be more critical of religion, and re-evaluate my attitudes in this war on terrorism (which is, at it's base, a war between secular liberalism and religious fundamentalism. A cause that is picture perfect for liberals to take has been co-opted by religious extremists on the American right, which is such a shame). I am of the Peter Beinhart, Sam Harris, and maybe the Hitchens-type of liberal, though I felt since the beginning Iraq was a strategic blunder and enough to remove Bush from office (the war was a pre-planned action in the face of another, more important threat).

Andrew Sullivan has read it and dismisses it as too broadly condeming religion, but I think of course he would. This is not to say that Harris disavows spirituality, which is a reality more so than with thousand year old texts that don't evolve. Their practictioners might evolve, but that is just a compromise they make with reality, which is really evolving. To make a living, they have to survive, and if that means bending some rules of their infallible doctrine, watch it happen.

My wish, and my aim as I try to inject myself into Democratic politics in the coming days, months, and years, is to represent and coalesce around those liberals who recognize this threat are not afraid to "kick ass" if need be. I know that the elements of this problem are not as simplistic as those on the right want it to be, but I am disgusted by the unwillingness of liberals to hate bush over everything. I don't like the guy at all, but we can get him by being a better advocate against this problem than he is.

The Republican Party is seriously addressing this problem, and I just...hate to find myself supporting an element of a party that Ann Coulter is a part of. It sickens me because this is an opportune moment for Democrats, and they should be aggressive in this, and take the national security issue, as this struggle fits well within liberal values (secularism, human rights, etc).

Posted by: Boorring on September 18, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, correction:

The Republican Party is seriously addressing this problem.

to

The Republican Party is addressing this problem.
Posted by: Boorring on September 18, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

on a more humorous note:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5358342.stm

invest now!

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike:

The only thing more common to Political Animal than discussions about the need for Islam to "heal itself", are discussions on the benefits of wiping out entire Muslims societies, countries, movements, etc.

I'm sure if I went back and looked at previous comments from you, I would find hundreds, if not thousands of examples of you condemning this type of talk, right?

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh look, there are white people rioting in Hungary! It wouldn't bother me so much if there were more white people condemning this kind of useless violence. Ho-hum. Where was I? Oh yes, we were talking about the benefits of using nuclear weapons to destroy Greece's uranium enrichment program.

Posted by: enozinho on September 18, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm not seeing it.

Yes, RSM, moderate Muslims are to blame for the fact that you get all your info from Fox News.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

enozinho, more to the point, I just wish that conservatives would condemn it when their fellow conservatives riot, but they're all violent and evil, so they never will.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Oy, it's pointless, but the best way to fight evil IS to do good:

Observe the most common reactions in this thread to Kevin's point in the original post. Kevin argued that Harris is wrong and late, that "most liberals" no longer believe that terrorism is caused by economic and other factors, that in fact "terrorists themselves usually middle class and decently educated are small in number and limited in capability unless they have broad support among the rest of the population..."

Almost immediately, some folks took Harris (who is a knucklehead) seriously enough to note that, even if he is wrong about "most liberals", it might be worth examining the proposition that "broad support" for terrorists is sorta kinda important.

That's why I asked: What is the Islam with which we are not at war?

If it is even possible to examine where 'broad support' for these particular terrorists comes from without answering that question, nobody has demonstrated the method. They're not like the IRA, who were never particular favorites of the Catholic Church in Ireland -- being as how, after all, Islam (particularly Sunni Islam) lacks the structures of Christianity. Shi'a has some, and some Yemeni versions of the Salafi school also, but the point stands. The IRA, particularly the Provos, were wholly independent of theology: they had a strategy, and an ideology, and lots of tactics -- but no theology.

And they were isolated and ultimately incorporated PEACEFULLY, through tactics and strategy AND ideology: which is why I wonder that nobody here seems to have a fucking clue about theology, cuz it would help to, you know, UNDERSTAND what we're dealing with?

Most of the replies to my simple question changed the subject as rapidly as possible -- read the thread, and it's clear that progressives are MUCH more comfortable talking about the sins of Christianity, or capitalism, or Israel, than answering even an AFFIRMATIVE question about the nature of a religion with 1.2 billion faithful.

That's pretty damning in itself.

But consider the actual answers to the question.

Jason scoffed (incompetently, but he did try, the poor dear), and wondered if I know the difference between Shi'a and Sunni. I do, but it's probably a bit more telling that for the purposes of answering the frigging question, it doesn't matter: Was he suggesting we are at war with the one, but not the other?

With both, but they are both at war with each other? (And this makes a difference to my question: how?)

With neither, but since he doesn't know what the difference means he figured he'd bring it up cuz that pretty much exceeds his bandwidth?

Not a deep thinker, this guy.

Somebody gave the classic lefty answer, which is that the Islam with which we are not at war, just happens to be the one that will cooperate with us over oil supplies.

Oddly, this is the same answer the Chewtoy gave, only he dressed it up in his usual half-baked fashion: We have no conflict, he 'explained' with "conservative Saudi Arabia".

In a pig's eye, we don't.

As it happens, most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis, as is bin Laden. (His family fortune came from the triumph of the Saud family over the Ikhwan, mentioned above.) Bin Laden specifically cited American troops guarding the Sacred Cities as a cause for 9-11 -- and, I note, those troops aren't there anymore.

So that's a clue.

Virtually all Islamic education in Europe and the United States is funded by Saudi Arabia, which is a huge change from even 50 years ago (the watershed is when they took over Al Azhar), and it's not aimed at promoting civic incorporation.

The Chewtoy doesn't know that. I wonder why.

But I know how.

So, one last time: what IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

Golly, are you guys so unfamiliar with a simple, serious question you don't even know how to recognize one, much less answer it?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Boorring,

Do you speak with Muslims on a regular basis? Because if you feel that the fundamental problem here is with maleficent trends within Islam, then there is virtually no point spending your time talking with seculartists, atheists, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.

Having watched this culture conflict develop over the past 5 years, I think one of the most crippling characteristics we face is our inability to converse with anyone outside our own little American mediaverse. The conversation about "what to do about radical Islam" takes place almost entirely on the blogs and editorial pages of Americans, conservative and liberal. The occasional Muslim may make a contribution (Fareed Zakaria). But for the most part, it's a bunch of Judeo-Christians, whether of secular or religious bent, talking about what attitude we should have towards Islam. Very few people in this discussion ever seem to actually converse with Muslims, which is the only productive activity in this debate.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 18, 2006 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't more Chinese people condemn the Chinese rioters?

http://tinyurl.com/h9htf

Why don't more Azerbaijans, Tajikistanis, and Caucususians condemn the rioting between their fellow Azerbaijans, Tajikistanis, and Caucususians?

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20060915/53913024.html

Why don't more Buckeye fans condemn the rioting of the more enthusiastic and loyal Buckeye fans? Where, oh WHERE is the intra-conference healing?

http://tinyurl.com/ez8wf

Posted by: Windhorse on September 18, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

what IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

Well, we're not at war with the Senegalese Muslim brotherhoods, the Tijaniyyah and the Mourides. Or with Sufism. How's that for a start?

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 18, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh -- also, we don't appear to be at war with Islam within the United States. That would appear to be significant.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 18, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, I usually agree with you, but I think you have to respond to the question here. The point is, where are the mosques which quite clearly and definitely are not about to be frequented by suicide bombers? Like, if you looked at Judaism at this point, you would be able to identify the rabbis and religious organizations who are likely to provide theological cover for Jewish terrorism, whether against Arabs or against moderate Jewish leaders. You'd also be able to identify the much larger number of rabbis and religious organizations which would abhor such acts. You're just not likely to find a West Bank settler in an American Reform congregation. So, how does that same effort at analysis work, with regard to Islam? Which are the mosques you trust to be patriotic towards their own countries, if they're located in the West, or to be vehemently opposed to violence and pro-tolerance, if they're in the Muslim world?

This is an effort one can undertake, and it's worth doing.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 18, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW: Jamil Diab was a Palestinian, educated at Al Azhar, who came to the US as a refugee in 1948. He wound up in Chicago, where he found a job as an instructor in Arabic -- which, ya gotta admit, couldn't have been THAT hot a field in Chicago
in 1948 -- through an ad placed in a newspaper by Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.

It didn't take Diab long to figure out that the Nation of Islam was neither a Nation, nor particularly Islamic, but their checks cleared, so he did a remarkable thing. He was assigned to teach the kids of the leadership Arabic, which was pretty much beyond Elijah Muhammad (Fard had vanished by this time), but which he understood
the next generation of Black Muslims would have to learn to be recognized as Muslims around the world, by reading the Koran.

So Diab carefully and systematically subverted the Nation's teachings, e.g., that white people are devils, etc., by his choice of surahs from the Koran to instruct his students.

W. Deen told me all this when I interviewed him a few years back, and he introduced me to Diab, who died just a year or so back. Too bad, because I wanted to do a biographical film of him, and suggested to some folks I know at the State Department that Diab's life story OUGHT to be a household word throughout Muslim nations. (It couldn't be any LESS helpful than our current outreach.)

The way W. Deen told it to me, matters came to a head in the late 1950s and early 60s, when the next generation (including Malcolm X) came into their own -- and, believing they had been raised as Muslims, they knew they should make the haj if
they could.

Which raised a practical question: Part of Black Muslim ideology was that they were a "nation", the Nation of Islam, and thus, it was a sacrilege to carry a US passport: Elijah Muhammad forbid it.

So they went to Jamil Diab. (W. Deen told me this first, and Diab confirmed it.) Diab taught them his love for the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, that it was okay to get a US passport -- and that's how Malcolm X took his trip to Mecca, which so famously opened his eyes.

Moreover, the FBI came to Diab's door, and more or less tried to intimidate him. 'What is an educated man like you doing with these guys?' They asked. He told 'em to pound sand. "If I don't teach 'em, who will?"

Finally and most importantly, W. Deen was clear to me on the point: it was BECAUSE of Jamil Diab's instruction, all those years before, that he formally disbanded the Nation of Islam in 1975 after his father's death. (What Farrakhan "leads"
these days, is basically justa newspaper, a house, and a tax dodge.) The 1975 dissolution
of the Black Muslims was the largest mass conversation in American history, and is the backbone of the American Muslim population today. (F'r instance, most Muslims in the Marine Corps come from this heritage.)

But you'd never know it -- cuz of all that Saudi money.

Anything to add, Jason? Chewtoy?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

The whole thing is pure projection. Anyone could just as easily say that the Bush crowd has an apocalyptic yearning for Armageddon that is driving away all reason. Oh, right: that's true.

Posted by: Kenji on September 18, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe: "Which are the mosques you trust to be patriotic towards their own countries, if they're located in the West, or to be vehemently opposed to violence and pro-tolerance, if they're in the Muslim world? This is an effort one can undertake, and it's worth doing."

I agree. But why should we expect the Bush administration to go through all that trouble, when they obviously think that it's so much easier to kill them all and let God sort them out?

It's truly a crazy but sad world. I read this thread and see many reasonable, rational responses to vexing, complex questions that are offered by thoughtful people.

Meanwhile, when I look at the so-called "leadership" offered by the self-proclaimed "adults in charge" back in Washington, I'm suddenly nostalgic for my childhood days -- because it reminds me of a Yosemite Sam cartoon on Saturday morning TV.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 18, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's argument sounds reasonable until you look at liberal's actions - they would rather whine about John Bolton wearing white slacks after Labor Day instead of trying to reform the cesspool UN bureaucracy; they see no problem giving a Pulizer Prize for photography to a terrorist strap-hanger who takes pictures of election officals being shot: they think Lynn Stewart has committed a peccedillo at worst, while waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed makes us worse than Nazis.

Posted by: minion of rove on September 18, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

I read the Harris column at breakfast and had to fire off a letter to the LAT before work today. So, so wrong-headed. I have to say Kevin nails it.

Posted by: JJF on September 18, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

Meant to add...Harris employ the tell-tale trademark for any of these "liberals are soft on terrorism" slanders: he never names a single liberal politician, pundit, or blogger, for that matter, who is guilty of this imaginary crime. For good reason: they don't exist. Sure, some fringe letter-writers have a few nutty ideas, I'm sure, but claiming they represent "liberals" is just slander.

He never names the fascists who have all the right ideas about confronting Islamic terrorists. Would have been nice to know who they are and what bright ideas they have. But Harris's lips are sealed.

Posted by: JJF on September 18, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think Josh Marshall said it best today:

Terrorism is scary. More so if you live in a major city like New York. But life's hard. And compared to nuclear holocaust it's really pretty much a walk in the park, isn't it?
-- Josh Marshall

Kevin's suggestions are very reasonable and would work towards lessening the threat of a nuclear holocaust.

Posted by: Mazurka on September 18, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Again, why does a Mosque have to solve a problem created by people who are trying to use Islam as the scapegoat here?

I'm sorry, Jason, but this is totally unconvincing and seems somewhat divorced from reality. As us liberals who argue that the Iraq War is an idiotic diversion generally argue, the real terrorist threat is a global one centered not around any particular government, but around radical Islamists in lots of different places. There's really only one thing that unites all of those who want to commit acts of spectacular terrorism against the US: they are all Muslim. So if you want to analyze that problem and where it's coming from, you have to have a theory about which elements in the Islamic world are radically anti-American and dangerous, and which aren't. Anti-American terrorists don't just happen to be Muslim. That's a nonsensical way of looking at things.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 18, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

"You know when ol George said he was a uniter not a divider, well at the time I was skeptical but now I am a believer." Dave 1:02 PM

I always thought it was hilarious how Bush could claim to be a uniter, one minute during the campaign, and attack his opponent by invoking the name of his home state, the next.

His supporters really aren't that stupid...it's just a passive aggressive response to willfully blind oneself to what you don't want to admit to others is true. They all know damn well there's nothing uniting about George W.'s presidency. That's why he's their collective wet dream.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on September 19, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> (sigh) The guy the Pope quoted ruled from the
> end of the 14th century until early in the 15th.

Brainfart. My bad. I had heard that and misremembered.

> Before he became emperor, the guy has been a hostage
> in the Ottoman court, so he was thoroughly educated
> in Islam, and an eyewitness to what he described.

This is irrelevant. The Pope's not holding a colloquy behind closed
doors with his grad students like he did the other week on evolution.
He was giving remarks to an audience that comprised the world. To
preface these remarks with the quote of a Byzantine emperor the thrust
of which is that Islam added nothing to Abrahamic religion other than
the sword of forced conversion (jihad) is just flatly idiotic. Isn't
there anyone in the Vatican with a clue of how Muslims would react to
this? It's tantamount to saying "my religion is better than yours."

It doesn't matter how valid Benedict's point is (and I understand it
in context of his broader argument about the role of reason in faith)
What matters is that he's quoting a Christian leader who said that
Muhammad brought nothing but inhuman evil -- in those very words.

Could anyone even *imagine* John Paul II -- who was doctrinally on the
exact same page as Benedict -- being that mind-numbingly insensitive?

> His son, btw, was the one who finally lost Constantinople, which
> is still the definitive military triumph of Islam. Quoting
> Paleologos was quoting the losing side in a very big war.

The question, Paul, is why this is even relevant in Benedict's larger
argument that reason without faith is leading the world astray? The
tremendous irony here is that, aside from those first few paragraphs,
there was much in Benedict's speech that would warm the heart of any
conservative Islamic cleric. Benedict said that the Western world
has fallen so far away from faith that Muslims can't understand it.

> So the Pope didn't pick this guy at random -- but, Lord!
> how you guys grab stray concepts out of the air, like
> straw in the whirlwind of all your talk, talk, talk.

He could have picked any number of ways to begin his talk.
Absolutely nothing necessitated referencing the bloody
rivalry between Christianity and Islam which culminated the
fall of the Levant to the Ottomans. *That* history? *Why*?

> The leader of a billion Catholics says something that a
> billion.two Muslims just might find inflammatory -- and
> you can't even be bothered to understand it, before you
> have what you still consider to be "opinions".

Oh right. If only those *Muslims* understood it in the great depths
of historical elucidation you offer us here -- you human Wikipedia
entry, you -- they would have been *dancing in the street* to know
that Benedict referenced an infidel humiliated by the Ottomans.

[/snark]

> (but hey, you can lecture me about saying Wahabi instead
> of Salafi. Shows what you think is important, huh?)

I don't care. A Saudi acquaintence of yours might, but ...

republicrat:

> rmck1:Also, you give your game away with "Moslem."
> That hasn't been standard for a good 60 years.

> there is no "correct" transliteration, and the word is
> pronounced differently in different dialects anyway, so that
> is a negligible difference. It's the same with Koran and
> Qu'ran: multiple pronunciations and no uniquely correct
> transliteration. and "Khadaffi" and "Qatar".

True enough (my own last name, like many from the Old Sod, is
the product of a botched Gaelic transliteration), but as a matter
of respect I think it's appropriate to refer to Muslims as they
refer to themselves. Mohammed vs Muhammad, sure -- but I've
never seen any Muslims at any recent time call themselves Moslems.

> The reference to the militias in Iraq, like the reference to
> militaristic Japan and Germany, was analogical. Note that,
> unlike a few other posters who make anti-Islamic comments
> like mine, I distinguish between a minority of Moslems and
> the majority of Moslems, in the same way that I distinguish
> between a minority of Germans and Japanese, and the majority of
> them. What all three of these analogies have in common is the
> necessity to defeat the violent extremists first, and then appeal
> to the multilateral institutions and the economic engagement later.

I have an extremely large problem with this analysis, and I don't
have the space in a message this long to detail it, but first I
don't think it's possible to separate out the "violent extremists"
from the rest of the population. Second, this only gives us the
excuse not to address our side of the ledger until they suddenly have
a massive change of heart that's completely unrealistic to expect.

There's more to this -- but it will have to suffice for now.

> The best analogy for Islamists now is not Christians
> now, but Christians at the time of the 30 Years' War and
> the slaughter of the Huguenots, before the Enlightenment.

It's more complicated than mere religious bigotry and a wholehearted
embrace of violence. There are cultural issues that strictly speaking
have nothing to do with Islam (e,g, tribalism) which contribute to
the mix, plus a history of relations with exploitative leaders. And
the most radical anti-Western jihadi fully embraces modern technology.

> I disagree with you there. What he said was that Christianity
> had been enlightened and broadened by the Enlightenment, and
> that Islam needed approximately the same enlightenment and
> broadening by being more open to reason.

That's true. The whole reason of bringing up the Byzantine
emperor was to say that conversion by the sword was against
the character of God; religion had to be freely chosen, not
compelled. This is the "civilizationalist" argument againt
Islam than an atheist could embrace. I don't disagree -- but
it's extremely dicey to try to tell Muslims to go grow some
Enlightenment already. They need to tell it to themselves.

> He said that secularists were wrong not to see
> the Deity in reason; that is not a critique of
> secularism that Islam and Christianity both share.

I don't know if I'd agree -- and if you read that in Benedict's
remarks I don't think it's a constructive point for him to try to
make. All religions are supposed to be in accordance to the mind
and to the senses; certainly Islamic civilization was no slouch as
far as the sciences were concerned while we poor benighted Euros were
burning each other at the stake and dying of communicable diseases in
the Dark Ages. What Islam (and Christianity) draw limits against is
the *will*. Christianity also demands a submission of the will.

> And the point was to highlight the resemblence of some
> aspects of Islam to the narrowness of Christianity before
> the Enlightenment, a time when it was rejecting reason.

No, I don't think this is tenable at all. First of all, Islam was
an enlightened civilization centuries before us. Secondly, there's
a larger strain of Benedict's critique, that modern secularism
has seen reason *defeat* falth and push it away, much to the
impoverishment of human life, that would ring entirely true to
a conservative Muslim. But Benedict is also engaging in his
theologian's special pleading for faith as justified by reason
-- a game at least as old as Aquinas -- and that's not necessarily
part of a critique of secularism. If it were strictly true than
reason wouldn't have grown so far away from faith to begin with.

> Since "Islam" does mean "Submission" (to the will of God is
> implicit, not explicit), it's fun to rewrite some sentences
> inserting "Submissiion" in place of "Islam". for example,
> "submission" rejects the Enlightenment.

All religions (even Buddhism) exhort humans to lay aside their own
diseased wills and submit to the will of a higher order of things.

> I always look forward to you comments.

Oh. Well, thanks republicrat. I often find your posts
challenging to respond to, as they tend to be quite balanced
and relatively free of polemics. That's often why I choose
to go after trolls instead :) Take that as a compliment.

> Not everyone calling for the assassination of Pope Benedict
> is in fact an Imam. The Briton I alluded to is a lawyer and
> a political leader, not an ordained Imam.

Well then it's certainly not a fatwa.

> There was at least one Imam in each of: Morocco, Algeria,
> Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia. That's in
> addition to the three in Somalia.

Did they issue fatwas explicitly calling for the murder of the
Pope as an Islamic duty, the way Khomenei dropped it on Rushdie?

The pointless Americanist:

> Oy, it's pointless, but the best way to fight evil IS to do good:

And you're doing *so much* good posting here. Can't you tell? :)

> Almost immediately, some folks took Harris (who is a knucklehead)
> seriously enough to note that, even if he is wrong about "most
> liberals", it might be worth examining the proposition that
> "broad support" for terrorists is sorta kinda important.

That liberals have "broad support for terrorists" is an idiotic
red herring. No liberal I could possibly imagine would ever
care to submit to Shariah law, ban drinking establishments,
see our women veiled, have our religious expression compelled
by peer pressure, etc. -- let alone have a soft spot for killing
noncombatants. Liberals *did* have a soft spot for Commies --
because Communist ideology partakes of the same Enlightenment
ideals as liberal democracy. Fundamentalist Islam is anti-liberal.

> And they were isolated and ultimately incorporated PEACEFULLY,
> through tactics and strategy AND ideology: which is why I wonder
> that nobody here seems to have a fucking clue about theology, cuz
> it would help to, you know, UNDERSTAND what we're dealing with?

Why the fuck don't you just come right out and SAY WHAT YOU
MEAN instead of bemoaning how stupid you think we all are?

Imagine, Paul ... you might actually move the discussion forward.

> We have no conflict, he 'explained' with "conservative Saudi Arabia"

> In a pig's eye, we don't.

They're our staunchest Arab ally in the Arab/Persian Mideast.
They don't war with Israel, and they don't slap usury prohibitions
on their banking institutions. As it happens al Qaeda is at
war with the Saudis in large part because the royals are allowed
to skip out on religious strictures by which the rest of the
society has to abide -- down to special exemptions for beards
and headdresses. Bottom line, Saudi Arabia faces at least as
big a threat from al Qaeda terrorism as does the US. Osama has
been persona non grata in his country of ethnic origin for decades.

> As it happens, most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis,

The problem is not the state religion of Saudi Arabia. The problem
is that there are a lot of wealthy freelancers -- royalty, mostly --
who fund fundamentalist Islamic institutions overseas to gain some
"street cred" in the eyes of the larger Arab world -- who tend to
rather *cough* royally despise them for living decadent lifestyles.

> as is bin Laden. (His family fortune came from the triumph of
> the Saud family over the Ikhwan, mentioned above.) Bin Laden
> specifically cited American troops guarding the Sacred Cities as
> a cause for 9-11 -- and, I note, those troops aren't there anymore.

Why do we even need Prince Sultan Air Base when we have bases
in Kuwait, Qatar and a huge deep-sea port in Dubai? Frankly, if
the Saudi government asked us to leave, I'm rather glad we left.

> Virtually all Islamic education in Europe and the United
> States is funded by Saudi Arabia, which is a huge change
> from even 50 years ago (the watershed is when they took over
> Al Azhar), and it's not aimed at promoting civic incorporation.

As I said in an earlier message, this is a problem, yes. But
it's caused by wealthy individuals in the royal family and not
as a result of policy by the Saudi government per se. After 9/11,
they did a great deal to crack down on their banking and examine a
lot of the Islamic charities that funnel money to terrorist groups.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist on September 18, 2006 at 10:56 PM

good story.

So, one last time: what IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

That's a good question. The answer includes the Moslems who fingered the British hijacker wannabees. It includes most Iraqis (those who support the elected government) and the Iraqi army, but what fraction of Sunnis are committed to the central government I do not know. It includes most of the 70% or so of the Indonesian Moslems who vote against the Islamist party candidates. It includes most of the citizens of Iran (but again, only guesses to the exact fraction). It includes most of the Moslems in Israel, but few of the Moslems under the control of the PLO.

The unanswered question is: do those Moslems support our opposition to the violent Islamists, or are they waiting to support the winners of the warlike conflict? I answered that they are just waiting, but clearly some are cooperating with America against the jihadist Islamists.

It is said above that no one names the offending liberals. Reread Kevin's post: Kevin said that defeating the militaristic Islamists isn't important; what's important is engaging them economically and working with multilateral institutions. Yet the Islamists have said ourright that they disparage wealth and its creation, and they despise all institiutions other than their own Islamist organizations. I claim with Harris that such an attitude does not understand the nature of the threat or take it seriously. And nothing is preventing the broad base of Moslems from economic engagement (e.g. Qatar and the bin Laden family construction company) or cooperating with multilateral insitutions (e.g. US, UN, EU, and NGO efforts at reconstructing Iraq.) Those not engaged or cooperating (Syria, Iran) have done so by choice.

Posted by: republicrat on September 19, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Really? AND, they're all Arabs. And, they all have black hair.

No. Richard Reid was British-Jamaican, and he had light brown hair. I'm sure there are many Iranians and Pakistanis who would like to commit acts of spectacular terrorism against the US; they are not Arabs. There are lots of Pashtuns killing American soldiers right now in Afghanistan.

There are many different factors which lead different people in different places to join the Islamic jihad against the US and European nations. But they all describe themselves as acting in the name of Islam. You cannot undertand what someone is doing if you do not listen to what he says about himself. That doesn't mean that the right response is to go out and kill all the Muslims, particularly as the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims have little interest in violent jihad. But there is no use pretending that the world is not as it is. Some Muslims want to fight the US because they see the US as an enemy of Islam. This is the situation. The question is what strategy to adopt in response.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

It includes most Iraqis (those who support the elected government)

The majority of Iraqis in every poll support attacks against US troops.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1 at 12:19,

that's a good post.

I have an extremely large problem with this analysis, and I don't
have the space in a message this long to detail it, but first I
don't think it's possible to separate out the "violent extremists"
from the rest of the population. Second, this only gives us the
excuse not to address our side of the ledger until they suddenly have
a massive change of heart that's completely unrealistic to expect.
...
There's more to this -- but it will have to suffice for now.

the blog forum requires us all to present simplified versions of our beliefs. If we wrote all the qualifications and adumbrations, no one would read any of them. As to the fatwas, it is looking like I may have to apologize as I said I might in a few days. There are few specific fatwas. the calls to assassinate the Pope have not, mostly, been by imams. The calls by the imams have been for militant jihad against America, Israel, Europe, defenders of the Pope, and all Christendom, with the Pope merely included with all the rest.

OK, I'll try to go with Muslim. But it's still the subset of Muslims who are murderers whom I object to, and who must be defeated with force.

Posted by: republicrat on September 19, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

The problem
is that there are a lot of wealthy freelancers -- royalty, mostly --
who fund fundamentalist Islamic institutions overseas to gain some
"street cred" in the eyes of the larger Arab world

Bob, I don't think this is accurate. I'm under the impression that Saudi funding for Salafist institutions overseas is state administered. We have a much bigger problem with SA than you acknowledge here.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

where are the mosques which quite clearly and definitely are not about to be frequented by suicide bombers?

Where are the nondenominational big box churches which are quite clearly and definitely not about to be frequented by American Iraq veterans?

Sorry. American Iraq soldiers kill a lot of civilians, just like those Muslim suicide bombers.

Instead of asking what IS the Islam with which we are not at war, the better question is what is the Christianity that is not at war against Islam?

There are very few Christian churches against the war and none that will condemn those fighting it. Condemn those fighting it.

From my perspective, there is no difference in motive between a motivated Christian killer and a motivated Muslim killer. The killing spirit is not informed by their religion but by something else. I think it is a universal desire to retaliate.

No one can deny that Arabs and Iranians have been made to suffer. Even though that suffering was only psychic for the rich and bourgeois, they still wanted to act out violence against a whole group of people, Americans. They somehow think the American Way causes all of the suffering they see Arabs enduring.

No one can deny that Americans suffered on 9/11. But almost all of them only suffered a psychic pain, but many still wanted to act out violence against a whole group of people, Muslims. They somehow think the religion of Islam causes all of the terrorism they see a few individuals perpetrate and imagine the entire Islamic population wants to destroy them.

Sam Harris is wrong to think that somehow religion informs the killer to act out. Victimization probably has more commonality, as it provides the necessary reason to retaliate. Most Americans did not think Islam informed people to kill in order to serve religion prior to 9/11. They had to become victims, if only through psychic trauma and national attack, before they could assign collective punishment. The different nationalities of Islam have had similar pain, or worse, inflicted upon them from US foreign policy.


Posted by: Hostile on September 19, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Hostile, we are looking at different questions. There is strong worldwide Muslim antipathy towards the US and the West. That generally shared antipathy backs up a small number of congregations or circles of Muslims who are willing to engage in violence against US and Western targets. That circle in turn contains some very small number of Muslims who are actively trying to commit acts of spectacular terrorism against the US. It is this question -- how to prevent further acts of spectacular terrorism against the US -- that needs to be addressed by post-9/11 American security policy.

The question of political Christianity's predisposition towards violence is relevant in the sense that it is important to damp down ignorant American enthusiasm for pointless and counterproductive military action against Muslims who have nothing to do with potential terrorism against the US. But "Christians are mean too" is not really a useful response to the question of what aspects of radical Islam are presenting a danger to the US, what aren't, and what strategy to adopt in response.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

``...savages don't mellow. ; ''

clear as a bell curve now who you really are Thomas1.

silly, small, stupid.

Posted by: secularhuman on September 19, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfo

Having watched this culture conflict develop over the past 5 years, I think one of the most crippling characteristics we face is our inability to converse with anyone outside our own little American mediaverse. The conversation about "what to do about radical Islam" takes place almost entirely on the blogs and editorial pages of Americans, conservative and liberal. The occasional Muslim may make a contribution (Fareed Zakaria). But for the most part, it's a bunch of Judeo-Christians, whether of secular or religious bent, talking about what attitude we should have towards Islam. Very few people in this discussion ever seem to actually converse with Muslims, which is the only productive activity in this debate.

I agree.

Posted by: Boorring on September 19, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

What are your sources on this? I thought we cracked Saudi heads very hard in that department, especially regarding charities that are actually fronts -- but what sort of Salafist institutions have the official support of the Saudi government?

And most importantly -- what's the official American rejoinder to this? If we can't stop it -- how do we justify it?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

``Why act like a smug, self-important blowhard just because this is something that you've read and we haven't?''

rmck1: I don't think it's an act.

Posted by: secularhuman on September 19, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

the real terrorist threat is a global one centered not around any particular government, but around radical Islamists in lots of different places.

I think I understand you perfectly brooksfoe. I do not think the terrorist threat is global nor that radical Islam is what motivates it. I think the individuals who want to inflict terrible pain on the US are motivated by revenge. They also happen to be Muslims. My point is that religion is not why these people feel this way. If you think so, then Christianity is what motivates our soldiers and policy makers to make war. The leaders of any group will use religion as a tool to explain the reasons why acting out violence is spiritually necessary, and there will always be some priests available to provide credibility to that appeal. It does not mean the religion itself is the cause or neurological program that makes men terrorists.

Posted by: Hostile on September 19, 2006 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

anyone else get a christopher hitchens vibe from americanist? there's that same sort of erudition unfettered by intellectual engagement.

Posted by: secularhuman on September 19, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

Our political and religious leaders, a few individuals, explain the 'terrorist threat' is why we must make war. Because the general population has been victimized, they accept the rationalization.

Some non-state actors, a few individuals, explain the US threat to Islam and the Arab world is why they must make war. Because the general population has been victimized, both emotionally and kinesthetically, they accept the rationalization.

Stop making victims and you stop terrorism.

Posted by: Hostile on September 19, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know--I converse with Muslims pretty regularly, and it's not like they give me insight into how to confront terrorism or anything. Really, it would be rude to bring up the subject.

Although they agree with me that the US desperately needs new leadership.

[They're perfectly decent people, so leave me alone NSA!]

It's annoying that theAmericanist spent the entire thread baiting everyone, and being so grandiose and coy about his actual subject: the education of the next wave of radical jihadists. Just out with it next time, please.

Posted by: Lucy on September 19, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

I do not think the terrorist threat is global nor that radical Islam is what motivates it. I think the individuals who want to inflict terrible pain on the US are motivated by revenge. They also happen to be Muslims. My point is that religion is not why these people feel this way.

I'm curious. Do you think that ANY religion is capable of inspiring bad acts, or is there always some other, hidden reason? I mean, some reason behind the reason that the "bad actors" themselves tell us, over and over - that they're doing their violence in the service of Islam. Apparently they're too stupid to know their own real reasons for blowing themselves up.

Have you considered the Inquisition? Pogroms in Europe? The horrors in Pakistan and India? Do you absolve religion for these too?

Or does Islam just get a special pass?

Does religion have anything to do with the lack of federal funds for stem cell research? Are you a big fan of giving equal time to both sides of the evolution "debate," and attribute the controversy to some non-religious cause? What about abortion clinic bombings? Are those OK because somebody felt the fetuses were being economically victimized?

For my part, I just finished Harris' book, and I can't find much to disagree with (some, but not much). Religion - as defined by irrational faith with no empirical evidence - is little more than an anchor on a civilized society, and needs to go the way of alchemy and witch hunts.

Posted by: zeeeej on September 19, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

But "Christians are mean too" is not really a useful response to the question of what aspects of radical Islam are presenting a danger to the US, what aren't, and what strategy to adopt in response.

Only if you have a hard-on to kill Muslims. If instead you wish to understand the actual dynamic at work, and develop a viable solution, it is crucially useful to contextualize.

Posted by: Disputo on September 19, 2006 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

zeeej, he isn't absolving religion. He is simply saying it is a rationale, not a reason; an excuse, not a cause.

I met a man once who said that he beat his wife because a demon possessed him. Should we believe him just because he said so? Or is it more reasonable to conclude that some other motivator is at work, and that religion is just a framework within which some people find it useful to justify their actions?

Posted by: Disputo on September 19, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: amr铃声 on September 19, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

If this thread isn't dead yet...

The only thing more common to Political Animal than discussions about the need for Islam to "heal itself", are discussions on the benefits of wiping out entire Muslims societies, countries, movements, etc.
Posted by: enozinho

Eh? You'll have to prove that one. I don't recall anyone asking for the extermination of muslims (that wasn't a crackpot).

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 19, 2006 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

Jason demonstrates yet again that putting two thoughts in a row is beyond him: " 'most Muslims in the Marine Corps come from this heritage.'

Wow. Talk about your nutball theories. Is that why Marines line their kevlar helmets with tin foil? And where do they put the high gain antenna that receives their instructions from the mother ship?"

No, it's because most Muslims in the Marine Corps are US-born African-Americans, whose parents were US-born African-Americans, and so forth. That is, roughly 40% of US Muslims came out of the old Nation of Islam stock, and the rest are mostly immigrant stock. The Muslims in the Marine Corps come from the former more than the latter.

As noted, the Nation of Islam was formally disbanded in 1975, before most of the Muslims in the Marine Corps were born. The faith they were raised in is the form of Sunni practiced by W. Deen Muhammad, which is why I told the story of Jamil Diab.

Did you get it this time, Jason? You could read it again, since you missed it the first time.

But I doubt it. "None so blind as him who will not see..."

Jason goes on: "why does a Mosque have to solve a problem created by people who are trying to use Islam..."

Cuz it's a MOSQUE.

I got to know a guy named Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the US-born (and Yemeni-educated) imam of the biggest mosque in Northern Virginia, where several of the 9-11 hijackers used to go. He and I talked for hours about the theological role of the mosque (for want of a better way to put it).

Basically, he argued that Islam is NOT a 'church' nor even a 'faith' in the Western sense; it is a way of life, and a system of laws. That's why my question is key, because this characteristic of Islam is also why the Saudi-funded education in Islam that now dominates the world is NOT about civic incorporation.

Al-Awlaki liked to remind me that he was as American as anybody, grew up in California, played little league baseball, etc.

Yet he had several mass murderers who looked to him for religious guidance... BEFORE they flew an airliner into the Pentagon.

One has to wonder what the guidance was.

A few months after our series of interviews (I gave him one of Ramadan's books, so I'm probably on some watch list), the FBI wanted to talk to him.

He fled the country.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose experience indicates that I shouldn't take literacy for granted in these threads: "stock" is a term denoting the second generation, for talking about demographic impacts on social change.

The classic example is the wave of immigration between roughly 1880 and the First World War. Its immediate impact peaked when the 1910 Census found that 14% of the US population was foreign-born (that is, were immigrants themselves).

But its direct impact didn't peak until 1930, when the Census found that 30% of the population was "foreign stock", which means those immigrants AND their kids.

Basically, all those little boys and girls holding their parents' hands on the boat to Ellis Island had grown up and had children of their own. Those US born kids weren't immigrants, but they are counted as "immigrant stock", to denote the second generation impact of the immigrant generation.

You can keep tracking this sorta thing, but after that it gets diffuse pretty fast, though some traits are stubborn. But it's also revealing -- particularly which traits are stubborn. (Language and food are not, religion and marriage are.)

Folks might find it somewhat surprising that George Allen is "immigrant stock", because his mother was foreign-born; while of course Webb is not, even though he has written eloquently about the impact of the Scots-Irish heritage unto the 7th generation.

Most folks who study demographics find it little short of a miracle that damn near a third of the nation that pulled together as one in WW2 was just one generation removed from literally being the people we were fighting about, including a considerable # from our enemies.

Just that fast, they were AMERICANIZED -- not something to be taken for granted, cuz nothing remotely similar happens in Japan, Germany... nor in any Muslim nation.

Some of us take it for granted that someone can be a Muslim AND an American, but that was once considered blasphemy by Elijah Muhammad, who remains more or less the source of the largest chunk of American Muslims.

There is a nasty argument about the # of Muslims in the U.S., but the gist is that of maybe 3 or 4 million who pray five times a day and keep halal (which depends on how you count), between 1.5 and 2 million stem from the 200,000 or so that W. Deen Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad's son and designated successor, took with him when he dissolved the Nation of Islam in 1975. (The total # of Muslims you count goes up considerably if you consider folks who don't practice but had even one Muslim parent, or take ANY number any mosque gives you.)

The reason this is significant for the question I asked (which Kevin still hasn't answered -- I think less because I'm an asshole, and more cuz he's literally never thought about it) is because education in Islam is like any other form of education: it ain't cheap, and somebody has to pay for it.

There WAS the beginnings of a distinctively American flavor of Islam, which could possibly thrive: Jamil Diab being Exhibit A.

But with the active support of the Bush administration and the passive acquiescence of progressives, the Saudis have bought it out. That's just fine with the chewtoy, but methinks the influence of the doctrines that informed most of the 9-11 hijackers, among others, is worth actually THINKING about -- thus relieving the chewtoy of a terrible burden.

So I ask one last time: what IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

(sigh) Jason, I don't think they're coming after me, and didn't say so.

I DO know they wanted to talk to al-Awlaki, which is why he fled the country.

What's that tell you?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

I like Harris but he's harpin' on a CT of his own here and in The End of Faith.

And I like the IDEA of an end of institutional superstitions!

Thank you for calmly and precisely responding to his Times' essay with the known facts concerning jihadist extremism and its likely recruits. Like it or not, religion is here to stay for longer than anyone can accurately imagine. Harris's analysis would carry more weight if he didn't take it so extremely on anti-faith.

Posted by: Michael Bains on September 19, 2006 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Lemme try this from another angle, with a concrete example -- as MB points out, faith isn't gonna evaporate.

Leave aside the actual merits of the whole Israel/Palestinian conflict, and assume for illustration that the United States has a permanent interest (determined freely by "We, the People") in Israel's existence, sorta the way folks more or less accept that if you want to shoot Presidents and suspend the Constitution you're not qualified to be considered an American patriot. In other words, assume it IS possible to be "un-American".

From the 1870s through Versailles, generations of French kids were raised on maps that showed Alsace and Lorraine were part of France that had been severed by an historic catastrophe that had to be set right one day. How'd that work out?

From Versailles through VE Day, German kids were raised on the injustice of the way Germany was treated at the end of the Great War.

Just imagine the reaction in Poland, say, if a modern German education consistently and systematically taught that Wroclaw and Gdansk were, and of right ought to be, parts of Germany -- naturally.

Now consider that Saudi-funded education in Islam uses maps that do not show Israel as a nation, and further, that this is presented as a RELIGIOUS fact.

One thing al-Awlaki taught me about his highly educated, orthodox approach to Islam, is that the concept of the separation of church and state sorta doesn't apply: Islam is "not a church".

That's where Ramadan's thinking starts, more or less. (He draws graphs, with an x axis of "being" a Muslim, and a y axis of "acting" like one. Go figure.)

MB is right, that part of what's wrong with Harris (like many posters here) is that he has a thing against faith itself, which is why many posters skip over the question of Islam and bitch about Christianity, etc.

But just as the struggle against Communism pretty much defined the last half of the 20th century, this is shaping up to define the first half of the 21st.

Jason obviously doesn't take faith seriously, and the chewtoy is simply not serious (though he takes himself very seriously).

But we couldn't have won the Cold War (we did, yanno) without ideology, and we can't succeed in this without some concept of theology.

What IS the Islam with which we are not at war?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, my oh my, Sam Jaffe and his hordes are a'comin' - Where, oh where, is Gunga?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 19, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- I still speak pretty fair Mandarin, Jason; and, well -- let's just note that everybody who's read this thread knows you now. You've been asked a sensible question, and you responded with feeble insults and even feebler attempts at wit. When folks show you keys to useful insight, like Jamil Diab, W. Deen Muhammad, or Anwar al-Awlaki, you're out of your depth.

Did you know anybody who died in the WTC or the Pentagon, or on Flight 93? Anybody who even had to run for their life?

My wife did. So I don't confuse the threat with Iron Maiden, asshole.

Ever talk to anybody whom the FBI wants to talk to about how 9-11 happened?

As noted, I have -- I've spent a fair amount of time sorting out the swirling currents of Islam.

Which is why I've asked the question: what is the Islam with which we are not at war?

It is downright delusional, how y'all pretend it's insigificant that you CANNOT seem to answer it.

Denial isn't the smart response to a real challenge.

I cited the Saudi-supplied maps without Israel on 'em to illustrate a point: the Germans of 1900, like the Poles of 1935, had damned good reason to conclude that there was NO way their neighbor was interested in peace.

And those were NATIONALIST aspirations, not religious ones.

LOL -- Friedman, the NYT columnist, had a smarter version of your Web and blue jeans notion, which he called the MacDonald's Theory of World Peace -- that no two nations with MacDonald's franchises had ever fought a war.

The point of a theory, in science, is that it can be disproven by a fact. His: Serbia and Bosnia and Albania and Croatia; Iraq and Kuwait; Iraq and us.

Yours: the 9-11 hijackers all had Web access, they had cellphones and blue jeans.

Do you have ANYTHING useful to add, Jason, or are you just what you show yourself to be here?


Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is scandalous and a disgrace to the memory of that real peace-loving man who was Martin Luther.

Let's not get carried away. Luther's preaching sparked a revolt of the middle class (called "peasants" because they were not nobility) and then Luther backed a brutal suppression of that revolt by the nobles. His writing was insulting and inflammatory. Peace was not really his foremost love.

Posted by: republicrat on September 19, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Correction: I am not going to call Sam Harris Santa Clauswitz, I am going to accuse him of believing in Santa Clauswitz.

Have you considered the Inquisition? Pogroms in Europe? The horrors in Pakistan and India? Do you absolve religion for these too?

Zeeeej, religion can, like ideology, be used to create systemic murder. The suicide bombers are not able to kill systematically like the Nazis, Catholics or Tsarists.

The Muslim Hindu conflict in India is fueled by the desire for revenge, I think, not religious doctrine. The religious difference just informs the individuals and mobs of who to attack. But since you brought it up, which religion informs the individual to kill the other? Is it Hinduism informing its believers to kill Moslems or is it Islam informing its believers to kill Hindus?

Your question about believers opposing new ideas is well taken. Does religion inform the masses or do priests aggitate and mobilize the masses to act out institutional resistance to new ideas? I think it is the later. I think it also supports my position that all religions' leaders aggitate their followerers to act out their faith, not just Islam. Acting out violence is more a human condition rather than an isolated belief system unique to our supposed enemies. All belief systems do it. In that regard, I agree with Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Hostile on September 19, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- as it happens, none of the "reasons" cited are why Ramadan's visa was yanked.

Besides, Jason: weren't you arguing that we're not at war with "Islam" at all -- so why are you kvetching about a Muslim scholar's scholarship? I thought our enemies' character was simply a figment of our imagination, a chimera conjured up by our corporate masters?

(shaking head)

It isn't true, as it happens, that Ramadan's work incites terrorism. I've certainly never found any examples. If they exist, it seems like that folks like Daniel Pipes (who introduced me to him, and has since turned against the guy) would, yanno, actually QUOTE something he's said that was inciting. They don't. (Notice there are no such quotes in the piece you posted.)

In fact, Pipes and others (including the Bush administration) principally object, not to Ramadan's work, but to the people he talks to -- which is pretty much what the FBI said to Jamil Diab on his doorstep in 1959.

Look at the good Diab did.

When I've quoted Ramadan, generally stuff he's said directly to me, what he's said fits into the larger context of his work, e.g., "To Be a European Muslim", which argues the opposite -- that it is possible to be a Muslim AND a European, as it is possible to be a Muslim and an American.

The late Jamil Diab argued that it was not only possible for a Muslim to be a patriotic American, that in fact America is by far the best place in the world in which to be a Muslim.

Seems like something worth promoting to me -- but not to you, evidently.

So you're left with a pretty threadbare coat there, dude.

On the one hand, you insist that there is no threat at all (what, the WTC fell by itself?); that it's all just a creation of... whom?

On the other hand, you post some of the vilest and least informed anti-Muslim crap there is.

Is this really the persona you want to present to the world? (or at least, the infinitesimal portion that reads this far down in a WM thread)

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

You know, it's less amusing than it is sad to see two people
like Jason and Peul (theAmericanist) going at it in these
threads. Both of them bring a lot of good information to the
thread. And both of them argue. Like. Immature. Jerks.

I personally believe the truth is somewhere between Jason's
religion-is-irrelevant position and Paul's Islamic-theology-is-
the-key position (I also respect brooksfoe's perspective on this
a great deal, perhaps more than both of these untenable extremes).

Jason's obviously attempting to privilge his personal experiences
in the military and his extensive knowledge of military history
(which are doubtless valuable) while Paul is obviously attempting
to privilege his DC experience with immigration issues, interviews
with folks like W. Deen and Tariq Ramadan and advocacy on their
behalf (which are, likewise, doubtless valuable). Neither of them
need to be so exclusive about it. The truth lies in the middle.

There are indeed reasons why we don't have a homegrown
radical Islamic movement in America the way there clearly
is one in Britain and France. There are likewise reasons
why suicide terrorism is more acceptible in Mideast countries
than in the West. Do these reasons have to do primarily
with religious doctrine? Nationalist aspirations?

I think the more salient variable is culture. Paul's correct that
Islam has no strict boundaries between mosque and state -- in fact the
notion of "separation of mosque and state" only parses in countries
that have won a struggle with Islam, such as Turkey -- and there
only through the powerful social institution of the military.
Even explicitly non-confrontational forms of Islam like Sufism
and Ismailism offer their religions as a complete way of life.

So is it a question of getting Islam to "fit in" to Western concepts
of secular government -- the Turkish model? I don't think so. Doesn't
seem like the strong flavors of Islam practiced by recent Muslim
immigrants has created a subculture of anti-American mosques. Why?

> The reason this is significant for the question I asked (which
> Kevin still hasn't answered -- I think less because I'm an
> asshole, and more cuz he's literally never thought about it)

More because Kevin doesn't read these threads past the second page.

> is because education in Islam is like any other form of
> education: it ain't cheap, and somebody has to pay for it.

Islamic education is problematic because there isn't a
tradition that rewards critical thinking, but rather rote
memorization. It creates a fertile ground for people drawn
to extremism, people whose minds are attracted to dogmatism
and rejection of new ideas -- but it also doesn't stop its
graduates from succeeding at Western secondary education.

Mohammed Atta had an advanced degree from a German university. Many
Muslims are likewise highly educated. Yet only a fraction turn into
Mohammad Attas. How much can you blame this on primary education?

This is an extremely complicated link to draw. One could for instance
argue the role that the media and the internet played in the aftermath
of the Columbine massacre. Surely an education ethic that values free
inquiry allows kids who are obsessed with Columbine to search the web
and immerse themselves in monstrous amounts of information about it --
even play an online point-and-shoot videogame based on the massacre.
This clearly influenced that Montreal Goth kid who shot his classmates
and then himself. Do we blame the media and our educational ethic for
inadvertently turning Dylan Kleibold into a posthumous celebrity?

> There WAS the beginnings of a distinctively American flavor of
> Islam, which could possibly thrive: Jamil Diab being Exhibit A.

I don't know if I buy into your Great Man Theory of Islamic influence.
First of all, a couple years ago there was a NYT series on American
Muslims and one of the articles dealt with black Muslims. According
to it, only a fraction were ever involved with the NOI. A co-worker
is a black Muslim (as American as you or me), about 50 years old.
He's told me he was never associated with the NOI, and he surely
would have remembered the mass conversion of '75. I'm not denying
what W. Deen said. Only thinking that you're stretching the numbers.

I think the reason why there are radical mosques in Britain, France
and The Netherlands and not in America has much more to do with the
legacy of colonialism in European countries, which is part of why
America has an entirely different culture of immigration. We are
neither strict assmiliationists like the French nor bend-over
multiculturalists like the Dutch. We're pluralists. We don't much
care if Muslims want to wear symbols of their religion in public
places -- provided they live by our laws and, as citizens, support
our Constitution. The European ex-colonial powers had an obligation
to accomodate their former subjects, and that distance between
European-born and former subject is extremely difficult to breach
culturally. France is in fierce denial that this problem should even
exist -- we have no ghettoes here like in America! The Dutch are
scrupulous about not foisting their culture on others to the point
where their immigrants feel no obligation whatsoever to honor it.
And, of course, it's impossible to imagine a culture more smug and
superior than the British -- the sun for which once never set.

And a factor that plays into suicide terrorism has nothing to
do with Islam -- and that's the culture of tribalism. Rape
victims killing themselves out of the shame that being raped
brings to their families are obviously not following even the
most radical imam. In cultures where honor is more important
than life, suicide as a religious and/or political tactic can
be compelling -- and religious justifications will of course be
teased out of whatever little doctrinal support can be found
in the hadiths (for it's surely not in the Koran itself) and
read out of context. But what's driving this is tribal group
identification, not anything that might resemble "theology."

Suicide is haram in Islam, just as it is a mortal sin in Catholicism.

> But with the active support of the Bush administration
> and the passive acquiescence of progressives, the Saudis
> have bought it out. That's just fine with [Bob],

Aside from distorting my position, I think you're conflating some
issues here. First, there's a question as to how much this is the
result of Saudi state policy as opposed to wealthy Saudis who feel
compelled to export their brand of religion. Brooksfoe suggested
that perhaps I'm too sanguine about the role of SA policy in this,
and I'm open to hear arguments as to their precise role. But I'd
still place the blame more on private religious entrepreneurship.

> but methinks the influence of the doctrines that informed most
> of the 9-11 hijackers, among others, is worth actually THINKING
> about -- thus relieving [Bob] of a terrible burden.

Except that the al Qaeda ideology is *opposed* to the Saudi state
religion. Extreme takfir can't even countenance the Saudis allowing
the Holy Cities to be open for every kind of Muslim (and accepting
the Five Pillars is all it takes to become one) to make the haj.

Sunni Islam is (very) roughly analogous to evangelical Protestantism
in that the particular imam of any given mosque has more doctrinal
control of his congregation than any particular set of hadiths (many
of them contradictory with each other). This is why your "theology"
thesis is kind of misplaced; we're not talking about a singular
doctrine that the whole of Islam would be compelled to support --
the way Catholics are at least passively compelled to submit to new
Papal encyclicals. It's the Shia who have the established religious
schools backed by hierarchies of clerics, and who are thus compelled
to heed, e.g. Sestani if they follow that particular school.

> So I ask one last time: what IS the
> Islam with which we are not at war?

Jason is 1000% correct; the idea of being at "war" with a religion
is beyond absurd. We're not at war with any particular flavor of
Islam, either, because many Saudi Salafists exist fine within our
borders, learning at technical universities and then flying back
home or -- who knows -- deciding to stay and become citizens.

We are at violent odds with certain aspects of Islamist
political doctrine. Two examples: The Caliphate ideology
-- which would be ridiculous to even talk about save for
its prominence among al Qaeda types (obviously a Universal
Caliphate would force all Shi'ites at swordpoint to
"repent" and become Sunni Salafists). And the endorsement of
killing noncombatants in war -- a clearly defined war crime.

This list may not be exhaustive -- but it's a good start.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

--

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Phermone incompatibility.

Posted by: on September 19, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest problem Ramadan has in that regard is the density of his prose.

He's the kind of writer who thinks in French, compares the concepts in Arabic (how does Spinoza define fitna?), and winds up being read in English, viz.: "French Jewish intellectuals whom we had thought of until then as universalist thinkers... (have begun) to develop analyses increasingly oriented toward a communitarian concern.

It seems legit to say there is a whiff of anti-Jewish feeling in that, especially cuz one guy he mentioned specifically isn't Jewish, but I'd require a higher standard for "anti-Semitism."

But mostly, when I read that ( it was flung at him as proof of his anti-Semitism a couple years ago) I thought: this guy needs an editor.

I thought the same thing when he sent me his essay arguing that anti-Semitism is contrary to Islam. He even asked me to edit it, but it was beyond my poor powers to add or detract.

Sorta like Jason or the chewtoy. But I will give the latter this -- he is generally trying to punch above his weight.

Jason sneers, cuz there's nothing else he can do.

Still, for the ephemeral record: if what Ramadan meant was something like: "I had figured thes guys were bigtime intellectuals who thought in terms of universal principles, but they turn to be as parochial as Iron Maiden metalheads", I don't think that's anti-Semitic.

But the semantics of prose as opaque as that ain't clear enough to see anti-Semitism without projection.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 19, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

That analysis makes sense to me.

Now tell me what you think of weighing culture over theology in the formation of terrorist ideology, as I argued in my last post.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

I thought you said that you made a firm rule you weren't going to respond to me?

Maybe this sort of thing (the inability to be honest, as in insisting that I haven't read the thread when you have no idea if I have or not. I have, of course) is why I suspect you of spoofing me.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1
Jason...is why I suspect you of spoofing me.

Not Jason aka Kevin "The Hammer" Drum? Spoof somebody? Never!

Heh.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 19, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Jason
You can see poor Red State Mike making his one relevant contribution above--good catch.

Hey, it was funny. Not often I laugh out loud while on the net.

So be honest now...the thread's dead anyway. Have you spoofed me?

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 19, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Have I spoofed you, Red State Mike?

Absolutely not.

[kidding-no, I have not. Why don't you guys just E-mail Kevin and have him give you the IP addresses or whatever?]

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 19, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike:

As long as we're doing Spoofing Confessions, I'll admit there's a few times I've done it in the past. I also have a consistent persona tucked away for special occasions. But never to regulars, troll or otherwise (save for a rather absurdist incarnation of tbrosz when he was around). Generally, I aim for absolute over-the-top satire, going beyond common vulgarity into full-blown perversion :)

But it's very very rare that I do that. I not only have to be in the right mood, but the target has to be extra-deserving.

I will say, though, that the Thomas / GOP spoofage I consider to be both pedestrian in humor content and stupid tactically. Both those guys will immediately start spoofing back, to the point where the threads start to degenerate.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'll admit there's a few times I've done it in the past.

I have a feeling that the list of who hasn't is shorter than the list of who has.

I wear them all as a badge of honor. :)

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 19, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

Jason ... y'know ... you admitted you didn't know what "ad hominem" meant. My guess is that you're really well-versed in the world of ideas.

Of course Levy is the French version of neo-con. He's an interventionist. It doesn't really matter what his economic ideology is -- and you wouldn't expect a French intellectual regardless of his foreign policy views to be a free-market capitalist. Adjust for national context.

That was a contrast with *American* neocons. But "Who Killed Daniel Perl" no doubt has pride of place on Bill Kristol's bookshelf -- and on Daniel Pipes' and Michael Ledeen's, too.

Neocons would change the government of Pakistan if they could. They are decidedly *not* Realpolitik types.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

Cheney is still a transitional figure. He's worked in other administrations, and is quite familiar and comfortable with maintaining Realpolitik relations with odious states. This is not exactly news to anybody.

The neocons didn't get an operating licence for their plans to remake geopolitics until 9/11. Again, not exactly news to sober observers.

Finally, there was nothing terribly "shocking" to neocon *opinion leaders* about the nature of the Pakistani regime. It was never included as a model of democracy or stability. Musharraf was somebody we had to work with because the alternative -- with Pakistani nukes and a government chock-full of al Qaeda sympathizers -- was much worse. So it was simply excluded from the axis of evil.

Did neocons protest at the time? Absolutely. There's nothing about neocon ideology that would coddle the Pakistani regime.

Support for it came from the Realpolitik contingent -- with support, to be sure, from Cheney -- in State and DoD.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

That's bizarre. I had just read recently that Rummy is not a neocon -- and for the life of me I can't remember where, else I'd google the source and give you the link.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

You haven't, incidentally, laid a glove on my initial argument -- whether or not I had misremembered this guy or that as signing the PNAC docs. My memory is a lot less reliable than my debating skills :)

There's nothing about Levy that you would ordinarily support unless you happened to find a "Levy shill" arguing against Paul Donnely in an opinion piece :)

Not much for an American lefty to defend about decidedly neocon-ish French strict assimilationism.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 19, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Jason:

Alright, this thread is finally done. Thank gods. My final thoughts on an argument that I think you clearly lost on the merits.

1) Misremembering a few guys on the PNAC signatories list is not fatal to my argument. It's a trivial mistake. You know ... whoops. Your point? It doesn't remotely comment on the fact that neocon ideology is interventionist and has absolutely no desire to cover for the many sins of the Pakistani regime. You surely won't hear the praises of the Musharraf regime sung by Kristol, Pipes or Ledeen, oh my!

2) That neocon *policy* runs up against the brick wall of political reality hardly changes this. Of course Bush cut deals with Pakistan and his administration worked to cover up some of the dirty dealings that doubtless Daniel Perl knew about -- up to and including its truck with AQ Khan and nuke proliferation.

3) The fact that Levy co-wrote a book on Perl doesn't make him some sort of anti-neocon. To the contrary; anything that exposes Pakistan for the regime it is contradicts the realist (Realpolitik, if you will) game the administration is playing with them *in the name* of neocon interventionist ideology.

But, you know, you conceded that point.

4) Finally, the only reason this issue has relevance at all is because you were slandering the reputation of an extremely valuable Islamic scholar you know next to nothing about, because he is advocated by a poster here who had the unmitigated audacity to bust your balls a little bit. Poor Jason.

Look, you can rip on me until the cows come home. I'm made of asbestos. But when you start attacking Tariq Ramadan (who, again, you know nothing about) for no good reason save the opinion of an esteemed right-wing commentator -- well then, a little pushback is in order.

The only way you can redeem yourself at this point is to try to argue that Tariq Ramadan poses a legitimate security thread.

Somehow, after this, I doubt very much that you're going to try to go there ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 20, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Back on topic, an exceedingly apropos article in the NYT today:

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: September 20, 2006

In a class on Islamic history at the Hartford Seminary some years
back, the students were discussing a saying ascribed to the Prophet
Muhammad that translates roughly as, "Whenever God wants the
destruction of a people, he makes a woman their leader."

The professor, Ingrid Mattson, suggested that the phrase should be
analyzed in its historical context when Islamic societies consisted
largely of tribal raiding parties. A male Saudi student contended that
all such sayings were sacred and not to be challenged, the argument
growing so heated that he stormed out of the classroom. Professor
Mattson stood her ground, as was her style.

Now she is challenging convention again. This month, Professor
Mattson, a 43-year-old convert, was elected president of the Islamic
Society of North America, the largest umbrella organization for Muslim
groups in the United States and Canada, making her a prominent voice
for a faith ever more under assault by critics who paint it as the
main font of terrorism. She is both the first woman and, as a
Canadian, the first nonimmigrant to hold the post.

Posted by: rmck1 on September 20, 2006 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

FWIW, from the NYT October 8th, 2004:

""People make a big issue about [Tariq Ramadan's] lineage*," said Ingrid Mattson, a professor of Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations at the Hartford Seminary. "But there are millions of Muslims who will listen to him precisely because of it. That's why it's crazy, keeping him out. "

[N.B. Ramadan's grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood immediately after the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the new leader of Turkey, Mustapha Kemal, abolished the Caliphate. Milton Viorst observed that this was as if Garibaldi had succeeded in uniting Italy as a modern nation, and promptly abolished the Papacy.

Hassan al-Bana's principal achievement was to re-connect Islam with Arab nationalism, a link that had been severed 600 years before when the Turks conquered virtually all Muslim lands, most -- but not all -- ethnically Arab. The Brotherhood became violent later, and is generally considered the wellspring of modern Muslim terrorism, but it is not true that this was al-Bana's plan. It IS true that from 1929 onward, the Muslim Brotherhood has been an often violent opponent of governments led by the Saud family, Nasser (who executed its leadership) and later Sadat in Egypt (and who was assassinated by the Brotherhood).

Ramadan's older brother Hani is a Muslim literalist, and as the younger brother (and more accomplished scholar) Tariq Ramadan has often been challenged to repudiate dumb things his brother has said, e.g., defending the stoning of women accused of adultery.

Ramadan's response has been to call for a moratorium, rather than a ban, "to start a dialogue".

"I won't change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister." ]

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

It has always bugged me that the continual right-wing refrain about moderate Muslims is that they aren't loudly repudiating the radicals in their midst. Whether it's Israel refusing to deal with Hamas or Hezbollah, Bush refusing to talk to *anybody* he doesn't agree with, or the incessant drumbeat of right wingers on this blog lamenting "where are the moderate voices who will stand up to terrorism?" -- this "logic of appeasement" boilerplate completely misses the point.

You start loudly declaiming these people, you cut off the ability to communicate with them. Hence, Ramadan's call for a moratorium, not a boycott, of stoning adulterers.

An example I like to give is with right-wing and religious terrorism in the Clinton era. After Waco and Ruby Ridge, winguts had a brief moment in the cultural spotlight. The so-called militia movement was popular and featured on CNN, the "common law" radical "Constitutionalist" movement to oppose taxation and license plates on cars was all over the internet, and murderous abortion clinic violence reached its zenith in those years -- not to mention the McVeigh and Rudolph atrocities. Why weren't the established fundamentalists / Libertarian right-wingers slapping down these bozos who gave their ideologies such a black eye in the public mind?

OKC surely had much to do with the end of the love affair; certainly the militia movement dropped off the radar screen shortly afterwards. But I think the bigger reason is that the hard right in this country felt out of power in the Clinton years. Kind of like Umma psychology -- it's difficult to criticize your extremist fellow travellers in the teeth of a larger opposition.

When Bush came into power, fully supported by the more hard-right elements in his base, this changed. I have no empirical data to back this up, nor have I read anything to support it anecdotally -- but I'd strongly suspect that being closer to power allowed the non-extremist hard right to smack down their zanies. Why bomb abortion clinics when you'd have a president and potentially a SCOTUS who'd like to end it? Why carry around guns on the weekend when the NRA has Congress by the short hairs? Why be a Constitutionalist radical when mainstream legal scholarship is moving strongly in that direction?

This is why, I think, that working to enfranchse moderate Islamists (no matter how repelled we in the West might be at Shariah) will pay dividends. It will allow them the space for the internal self-criticism that everyone agrees is necessary to delegitimate the fundamentalist extremists.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 20, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'll give you a better example: the IRA ceasefire.

For a whole generation, the British (with American support) did damned near everything they could to make the IRA the de facto government of a big chunk of Belfast. They insisted they were doing no such thing, of course -- but as a practical matter their reaction to Bobby Sands and the like made moderation a dirty word.

Gerry Adams was a prisoner with Sands. I will spare you the details of how he wrote IRA slogans on the walls when he was denied pen and paper.

By the early 1990s, the whole 'we don't deal with terrorists' thing had hit a dead end, AND there were folks, led by Adams, within the Republican movement who wanted a peaceful solution. But to GET it, they had to show results.

That's why it was such a big deal when Clinton first promised in the 1992 campaign that he would meet with Adams; then after he was elected State got hold of him and he flipflopped, and finally he got strongarmed into doing what he should have done in the first place.

That's what gave Adams and Sinn Fein credibility within the Republican movement, as opposed to the thugs who used to buy C4 (from Libya) by the TON.

Adams' US-supported credibility how we got the Ceasefire, which is how we got the Accords.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

I understand the point you're making. You have to deal with people
*within* the extremist movement, with ironclad credibility, in order
to leverage their personally evolved positions into something like a
political stake.

This is the same reason that I think Israel is going to have to deal
with Hamas -- or at least an Abbas/Hamas unity government. "We don't
deal with terrorists" is a dead-end street when the terrorists have
de-facto control of a territory (Hamas in Palestine = IRA in Belfast).

But a signal difference which you brought up earlier (and with which I
agree), is that there's nothing fundamentally religious, let alone
theological, in this conflict. Catholic / Protestant in Northern
Ireland more properly seen as a cultural, economic and even ethnic
divide.

Now Islam is not Christianity. And a shame-based tribal culture
that necessitates dying for honor's sake is not a characteristic
of Northern Ireland. A Gerry Adams of Hamas, credibility honed
by years in an Israeli prison, would be a wonderful thing. But
I'm wondering how capable of evolution to moderation some of the
hardened leaders of Hamas are, both for religious and cultural
reasons -- and I'm wondering what might push them along this path.

And these are not rhetorical questions.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 20, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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