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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Three Lost Arguments: Two -Sharia And The Left

In San Francisco, the love that dare not say its name seems to be the love of God? SFGate:
More than 25,000 evangelical Christian youth landed Friday in San Francisco for a two-day rally at AT&T Park against "the virtue terrorism" of popular culture, and they were greeted by an official city condemnation and a clutch of protesters who said their event amounted to a "fascist mega-pep rally."

...Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who told counterprotesters at City Hall on Friday that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."
"There is a real intolerancy to homosexuality in a lot of these organizations," said Peter Cobb, an organizer with Not In Our Name.

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."
It makes you think that the ultimate act of rebellion in Berkeley might be going to your temple or church. Dr. Sanity looked at the whiny-brats-grow-up-to-be-Republican story last week. She comments that Michele Malkin has information saying that the kids studied were the children of Berkeley faculty. Seriously - doesn't this type of thing cast some light on that study? Maybe the finding should have been that whiny kids grow up to rebel against their parents?

Dr. Sanity has been hitting hard about the faith elements in la-la leftism (really Marxism) this week and writing about Sharia in the same vein. She quotes Andrew Bostom on Sharia and apostacy, who quotes Ibn Warraq:
Doubt is a very good passageway, but a very bad place to stop in. However, apostasy is a matter of treason and ideological treachery, which originates from hostility and hypocrisy. The destiny of a person who has an inborn handicap is different from the destiny of one whose hand should be cut off due to the development of a dangerous and infectious disease. The apostasy of a Muslim individual whose parents have also been Muslim is a very infectious, dangerous and incurable disease that appears in the body of an ummah (people) and threatens peoples lives, and that is why this rotten limb should be severed.
Well - actually Ibn Warraq's philosophy might be more tolerant than la-la leftism, because Ibn Warraq recognizes the health of doubt and religious questioning, as long as it doesn't take you out of Islam. Now consider this. The SF type of leftism has developed its own ideology in which it is very healthy for a person to develop a lesbian or homosexual identity, but terribly unhealthy to seek to go back the other way.

That seems worrisome to me. Since I have personally known several people who apparently were heterosexuals for quite a while, switched to same-sex, and now say they switched back, I suspect anyone who gets didactic about other people's sexual orientations. I know one avowed lesbian who fell in love with a man. She says she's still a lesbian but she's marrying him anyway. That does seem odd to me, but she is a very functional and loving person who is clearly able to make her own choices and to be responsible for them, so my bet is that it will work out fine.

I think you have to let people work this sort of thing out for themselves, and a decent respect for people requires leaving them alone to live their own lives as best they can. If their behavior is reckless or becomes a wall against meaningful human interaction, they may well need some sort of pyschological treatment or, alternatively, to get some stability and breathing-room through grace. But trying to make a political movement out of individual conflicts is ridiculous; the worst "pro-gay" activists have pushed themselves into an ideological pass in which they are now denying the role of individual instead of accentuating it. (See Shrinkwrapped's post here "This represents the logic of thought control; not only must you not "change your mind" about Islam if you are a Muslim, but you must not think poorly of Islam is you are a non-Muslim. This is totalitarianism and is the greatest danger facing the West today." Also see his post about Basic Trust: "Along with Basic Trust, a child's mind develops in close contact with their parents' minds and it is a late developmental milestone for a child to recognize that not everyone's mind works just like theirs does. People who develop Narcissistic characters never fully grasp this idea on an emotional rather than intellectual level.")

Earlier Shrinkwrapped referred to a post by Dr. Helen in which she commented about the movement against psychological treatment for people who wanted to adopt a same-sex orientation. Both the comments and the post are interesting reading. Also see this blog entitled "Ex-Gay Watch" for more perspective.

What tends to get lost in the minds of the extremists is the reality that everyone is not like themselves. Over and over again, people who have battled through their own conflicts want to push their own solutions upon everyone, in utter defiance of reality and any logical conclusions that could be drawn from a detached observation of reality. In the end, pushing their own solutions negates the power of their own arguments. It's a strong argument that some people seem to be born with a sole sexual inclination toward their own sex and will be disfunctional if forced to try to act as if that weren't so. It's a weak argument to say that those who seem to have both inclinations or conflicted inclinations are only acting healthily when they express the inclination towards their own sex.

Now back to Shrinkwrapped on Basic Trust:
The authoritarian and totalitarian leaders of the Muslim world, in their evil cynicism, have created conditions in the Muslim world in which their mirror images, vicious Islamist Imams and terrorists, have thrived. The only reason countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan offer any help to us in the war on Islamic fascism is that the Jihadists made the mistake of biting the hands that feed them. The world of Islam has shown itself to be extremely reluctant to confront the bullies who control their public face; this is understandable to some degree, but the danger to them is increasing daily.

Americans tend to be extremely tolerant people. After 9/11, despite the propaganda from groups like CAIR, there were very few real acts of bigotry directed against Muslims in this country. The assumption Americans make is that others share certain basic values. We all agree to meet each other with open hands.
A series of events have been created and/or high-jacked by the worst in Islam, and the question now is whether or not this is the majority of Islam. Starting with the Iraqi insurgency that seemed to relish inhuman and inhumane behavior, many began to wonder if Iraq, and indeed if the entire Muslim world, was beyond Modernity. The Paris car-burning, the cartoon riots, the torture murder of a French Jew, Ilan Halimi, by Islamic barbarians, the destruction of the Golden Mosque; all these events have pushed more and more Americans to a tipping point.

Tipping points in complex, dynamically stable, but chaotic systems can never be predicted with a high degree of accuracy, but we are moving closer and closer to the tipping point, the point at which the zeitgeist will crystallize around the idea that the Muslim world is irredeemable.
The only thing I disagree with is SW's last statement. The Zeitgeist has crystallized around the idea that Islam as a power structure is irredeemable. The only reason we haven't recognized that yet is that our intellectual class (the professors, many of our lawyers and the press) have been strongly influenced by Marxism and recognize their ideological counterparts in the Ummah of Saudia Arabia and the Taliban. They sit in confused admiration of the fanaticism and willingness to destroy expressed by that ideology because they see their mirror image in it.

George Bush has irrevocably lost his argument that Islam is a religion of peace. Irrevocably. The only question left to the west on this issue is how we will deal with the reality that the Islam of today's Islamic world is not a religion of peace, but a religion of murder. This does not mean that the Islam of tomorrow's Islamic world necessarily must be that. There are plenty of historical counterparts (including the historical development of Marxism itself) to show that idealism can be healthy as idealism whereas it becomes lethal when it becomes a ruling ideology.

It's more than possible that this process of reform is taking place in today's Islamic world. It's more than possible that George Bush has not lost his argument about freedom being an innate desire of the human heart. It's more than possible that the freedom the west offers to Muslims in its midst to be Muslims, as long as they don't try to insist that everyone else must do the same, is fuelling the outright terror of the jihadists. They are terrified of democracy. They are terrified of individual people making decisions as to the direction of their nations. They see the establishment of Muslim democracies as the deathblow to the establishment of the Ummah they desire to establish.

Perhaps they're right. They are, after all, in a position to know their own thinking. If they are, the very last thing the west should do within its own nations is to adopt an appeasionist stance towards Muslims. It should adopt a policy of equality and neutrality. This will result to increase the fury of the Islamic-fascist-terrorists, and it will result in the individual Muslim rejecting the dialectic of bombs, which lacks the power to convince and can only terrorize. Our foreign policy should be a reflection of our internal policy. We should set forth objective standards and apply them equally to all nations, and forever and absolutely rearticulate our principles about human rights.

See Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's series of excellent posts from last week. SC&A begins with Why I Hate Islam:
My friend is a proud Arab and Muslim- and has lived a life that can only be described as decent, honorable and upright. I would, at a moments notice, trust my friend with my child's life.

What passes for current Arab and Islamic culture has tainted and tarred my friend with a stain that cannot be gotten rid of in this generation- and I am outraged by that truth. In fact, my colleague notes that as long as political and religious leaders keep focusing on the past, nothing will change.

My friend's dreams do not include a new Caliphate. He dreams of new schools and job creation. There are dreams of universities and democracies, debates and free expression for all. The promised water is an illusion, another desert mirage. The region and people are so thirsty for the waters that will never come.
SC&A continues with a post responding to critics of the above post:
One of the more interesting emails was from a reader who took exception to the gist of our remarks, and noted that only through extended and sensitive dialogue can the west come to terms with Islam. We "need to understand the needs of the Islamic community," our correspondent said.

That is absurd. The 'needs' of the Islamic community must fulfilled from within. It is not up to western society to accommodate Islam. In fact, it is Islam that must learn to accommodate the realities of an ever progressive and modern western society. If there are elements of western society that make some Muslims uncomfortable, those Muslims can choose no to participate in those elements or activities. Hasidic Jews, the Amish, Hindus and Buddhists have managed to integrate into western societies and cultures while maintaining their identity. Why should Muslms be afforded special status?
It's more than managing to integrate. The US has been a refuge for many members of those groups. In his next post SC&A gives voice to a Muslim blogger who writes about the west's call for a reformed Islam:
I believe that there are many in the West capable of recognizing beauty — and they have recognized the beauty that Islam was in the hands of Rumi, and also have recognized the potential of that beauty in Islam today, in Muslims today. This is another way of saying that I believe there are many in the West who are driven by the humanity of the Muslim, who faces daily in Iraq, in Punjab, in subversive mosques in Europe, the inhumanity of a utilitarian death theology.

Yes, I know that there was a time when the West went to ‘civilize’ and ended up conquering; when it went to ‘keep the dominoes upright’ and ended up slaughtering; when it went to ‘trade’ and ended up colonizing; when it went to ‘liberate’ and left civil war behind. Yet, in spite of this I believe that there are Westerners who are impelled solely by the humanity of the Muslim, because when the West conquered there were Westerners who spoke against it; when the West went to Vietnam there were Westerners who spoke against it; when the West colonized there were Westerners who were anti-colonial. Even still, all Westerners cannot be held accountable for the sins of their leaders. Muslims can, and do, ask that others forgive what Muslim leaders do in the name of God. Why cannot the West be forgiven for how its leaders have manipulated humanism? I forgive.
I forgive, he writes. I believe that many of you are motivated by recognition of our humanity, he writes. This is the voice of reformist Islam and the true Islam. I'll close with The Anchoress, who leads me to the third lost argument:
The “clash of civilizations” is real. I think there is something to be said for viewing the vast majority of Muslims sympathetically, although I don’t know if I would concede that they are “slaves” so much as simply disenfranchised and bereft of opportunity. In too many cases they are kept out of the 21st century marketplace of both ideas and goods, which leaves their culture somewhat stagnated and economically impovished - precisely the problem which visionary President Bush is trying to remedy in order to bridge the growing chasm between Islam and the West, which some will not understand, no matter how many times you (or in this case, Neo-neocon) explain(s) it to them.

America is looking at the gap squarely and expending political capital and human life and human energy to try to make what is apparently an unstoppable trend into something with which both Islam and the West can live. A very tall order. We don’t even know if it is do-able. But no one else is willing to even try…not complacent Europe, not status quo, conciliatory Democrats, and try we must! Those of us who support the vision are doing so based almost wholly on the belief that all human beings desire liberty. I believe they do.
They do. Human beings long for liberty and life, and slapping a name on any individual cannot deprive that individual of a right to life because of what they believe, how they pray or how they aspire. The kernel of human freedom in the west is contained in the proposition that human beings should not be killed except in self-defense, and the recognition that killing someone because they make a contrary argument to yours is not self-defense. And this we do believe.

The sickness of totalitarian Islam is contained in the need to destroy Abdul Rahman because of his prayers. There are plenty of disfunctions and conflicts in the west, but only our very, very worst would recommend the death of "wrong-thinkers". Even our fanatics largely believe that "by their fruits ye shall know them".is The pain that the west is inflicting upon Muslims is the expression of what we see in many of the Islamic cultures, not our attempt to overwhelm them or control them. But totalitarianism is not a necessary component of a religion that contains as one of its fundamental tenets the assertion that God sent a true prophet to each people, and that each people has chosen to ignore the word of God. That is hardly a debatable proposition for any person of faith. There room for reform within Islam. We cannot do it for them. We can only offer the same response and the same safe harbor that we have offered to the Amish, and the Buddhists and the Hindus.

Finally, to those who say that Abdul Rahman's sentence is proof that we have done an evil thing in Afghanistan: Get real. The Taliban was forbidding women to receive medical care or to work outside the home. They required widowed women to starve inside their houses rather than leave the house to work. That is the literal and absolute truth. One of the last acts of the Taliban was to shut down a program offering bakery jobs to women in a segregated atmosphere so that they could feed their children. Now they are voting.We have not made things worse. We have made them better. That is the standard by which such interventions must be judged. The end result is not known yet. That is the result of their freedom, as it is with us.

I wholly agree with your suggestion that people should be permitted to work through their religious or sexual struggles as individuals, without coercion from political opportunists, and that professional help isn't necessarily needed unless their struggle exhibits itself in reckless or self-isolating behavior.

Insofar as your brief reference to sexual struggles is concerned...

While I do not believe many pro-gay activists attempt to pressure confused individuals one way or another, a few do -- as do many ex-gay activists, unfortunately.
Mike - "activists" is the significant term here, isn't it? I am wary of anyone who thinks they have a valid ground for activism about other people's sexual lives.

But this is about more than sex. We have activist vegetarians, activist meat-eaters, activist broccoli advocates.... We've got activists who think it's fine for 12 year-olds to have sex with 25 year-olds. We've got activists on every conceivable topic. We've got activists who think any sign of religious affiliation in public should be banned for the public good. We've got terrorist-activists who think that one particular religion should rule the world.

There must be something in human nature that feels the need to tell other people what to do. That's fine, if it is based on general observations and allows for individual differences and if overall, society agrees on those observations.

And drawing lines about behavior that is very likely to damage vulnerable people is legitimate. But when people try to politicize everything, it doesn't work very well. There is something to be said for the "you go your way, I'll go mine" stuff. The genius of the west is that it has largely managed to open up individual freedom while retaining a functional society.
But when people try to politicize everything, it doesn't work very well. There is something to be said for the "you go your way, I'll go mine" stuff.

Well, I don't know about you, but I would hardly say that the "anti virtue terrorism" crowd is a "you go your way and I'll go mine" bunch of folks.

I know of no one, whether of the Left or not, who has a problem with any Christian being as pious as they please, in Church or out.

But anyone who engages in a "pro-Christian" politics [which is what our "virtue terrorism" crowd is doing] has no right to complain about hostility from the people they oppose.

I constantly hear about the "persecution" of Christians who violate the privacy of others with a political message that is not welcome.

Such hostility is not about Christianity, it is about good manners.
Well - I do. In fact I read screeds from them every day on the web. I read a thread on DU's religion forum last week from a person in Miami who had started taking the train and was extremely upset to discover people reading the Bible on the train.

The huge majority of people in this country don't share this attitude, but it is taught in universities and the idea of disadvantaging anything which could be called of religious origin is a highly influential school of legal thought. The constitutional theory is called "freedom from religion" and it's not a fringe idea at this point IN LEGAL CIRCLES. The idea is that the First Amendment should be interpreted as debarring from law or the public square any speech or rule which can be possibly interpeted as arising out of a moral basis. This would give the Supreme Court the duty to rule any law unconstitutional that is considered to be "non-rational".

I agree with you on the good manners. A little respect for other people goes a long, long way in this world. It seems to be the basis for all peace too.

But how many people really advocate it?
Well, I really don't travel in legal circles but if an argument that the first amendment doesn't protect the political speech of Christians isn't a "fringe idea", I don't know what is.

As a member of the ACLU I know that many of my friends have ACLU fantasies in this regard. But they are, in fact, fantasies.

The "free exercise" clause is alive and well, and so is the right assembly to petition for redress of grievances [except, of course, if it is anywhere that the President of the United States might see it. Then it is confined to "free speech zones" out of his range of vision.]

And you will find that non-fringe organizations like the ACLU spend a fair amount of time defending Christian usage of both the free exercise and the public assembly clause.

The mere fact that somebody doesn't like a particular political view, or a particular public pious action, Christian or not, and says so bluntly and angrily is beside the point.

As to Bible reading on public transportation, I can tell you as a Buddhist that I do the Buddhist equivalent quite openly. I occasionally notice some hostility to this, but I know perfectly well that this is not my problem. Nor do I think it "persecution".

Nor are you likely to convince me that the Democratic Underground is anything but a "fringe organization", though it is one that my good friends tend to fixate on a lot, to the detriment of perceiving the far greater variety of opinion among their political opponents that actually exists.
Joseph, you wrote:
"The "free exercise" clause is alive and well, and so is the right assembly to petition for redress of grievances [except, of course, if it is anywhere that the President of the United States might see it. Then it is confined to "free speech zones" out of his range of vision.]"

Haha! on the range of presidential vision thing.

Both on college campuses and OFF them, what you are claiming above is not true. I invite anyone reading this to go thefire.org and read those cases. This is not settled law. This is an issue that is sincerely and passionately debated in our times and especially sincerely debated among judges and lawyers.

Witness the SC's decision that the McCain-Feingold's restrictions of political speech were constitutional. A literal reading of the First would not allow that.
Instead a majority of the Supreme Court of the United States adopted the interpretation that Congress represented the people, and so in pursuit of Breyer's "active freedom", Congress could do exactly what the First Amendment says Congress cannot do.

It's not just the dichotomy between religious/political speech. On both the left and right, there are factions that believe that "improper" speech should be banned. Of course everyone has their own idea of proper....

The legal and popular debate in our country is really between the camps that believe in literal freedom and the camps that believe in laws interpreted to get an end result that they believe will be beneficial to society as a whole.

Sometimes the ACLU supports the literal idea of freedom. Sometimes it supports the other idea. I don't consider DU to be a fringe group. There are some people on DU that are fringists. There are many others who are not. I certainly don't consider the ACLU a fringe group. Many of the positions it takes are majoritarian positions in law schools, and therefore will become majoritarian positions among federal judges.

There is really only one decision that a society can make on these issues. Either you allow literal individual freedoms or you allow "approved" freedoms which must always be approved by some group.

The idea that literal freedoms are protected in the Constitution is very much under attack in the courts and in the culture.

Joseph, you are way, way too confident. There is absolutely no reason to assume that the Bill of Rights will stand unless people are willing to fight in the courts and in our legislative bodies for those freedoms.

For the time being if you want literalist or originalist judges we are stuck with electing Republican judges. If the Democratic party developed a hard core libertarian wing the electoral map would change in a minute.

This is a big, big OPEN question in our culture. Again, anyone reading this should go to thefire.org and read that for a month or two.
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