Tag Archives: Islam

Cartoonist in Denmark Calls Attack "Really Close"

John Burns for NYT:

LONDON — A heavily bandaged 28-year-old Somali man was wheeled into a Danish court on a stretcher on Saturday and was charged with attempting to kill a Danish artist whose 2005 cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad was one of a series that ignited riots across the Muslim world, as well as firebombing attacks on Danish and other Western diplomatic missions.

A 28-year-old Somali man was wheeled into a Danish court on a stretcher on Saturday and charged with attempting to kill a Danish artist whose 2005 cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad ignited outrage and riots across the Muslim world.

At one point during the attack, which took place late Friday, only a reinforced bathroom door protected the artist, Kurt Westergaard, 74, who was shielding his 5-year-old granddaughter as the attacker — armed with an ax and a knife and shouting “Revenge!” and “Blood!” — tried to smash through the door, according to an account the artist gave to the newspaper that employs him, Jyllands-Posten.

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Unstable trio endangers world

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor of The Australian, highlights how dangerous the horrible-three have become, based in part on the Australian’s just released defense white paper. Note the absence of Iraq in the discussion.

Sheridan has been Seekerblog’s most reliable source on this topic, so do read the whole thing. He begins as follows:

IT is the perfect strategic storm. The deadly combination of irrational fervour, aggressive nationalism, the unimaginable destructive power of nuclear technology, growing Islamist extremism, continuing terrorist determination, an economically and militarily stretched US and a wide international milieu of festering anti-Americanism, which has not been solved by the election of Barack Obama, means the world is entering the most strategically dangerous period at least since the end of the Cold War, and perhaps for some decades before that.

Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are the three critical states, all likely to come to some sort of crisis in the next year or two.

During the past couple of weeks I have spoken to a great range of strategic analysts, policy-makers and opinion leaders, government and non-government, in Asia, the Middle East, North America and Australia.

There is considerable debate about how acute each looming crisis is.

But there is no serious debate that the trend lines on the key issues are generally negative and that seriously destructive dynamics are gaining momentum.

Taken altogether, the strategic environment is acutely dangerous and getting worse. The toxic mixture of irrational fervour, religious or ideological, and the destructive power of nuclear weapons and material makes the prospect of cataclysmic crisis much more immediate than it has been for a long, long time.

These trends are each disclosed, in relatively straightforward language, in the Rudd Government’s just published defence white paper, but no one has yet put them all together. Nonetheless, when aggregated, they form a remarkable official description of a gravely disturbing global situation.

On Pakistan, the most acute crisis of all just now, the white paper says: “Pakistan will remain a pivotally important state. Its prospects will continue to be of concern, given its possession of nuclear weapons, its centrality to success in Afghanistan and the havens for Islamist terrorist networks located in Pakistan and, however remote at present, the risk of a radical Islamist capture of the state.”

The risks of a radical Islamist capture of the state have risen greatly in recent weeks as the Pakistani Taliban poured into the Swat Valley, not very far from Islamabad.

The sight of the Pakistan Government virtually ceding the Swat Valley to the Taliban, and the Taliban marching ever closer to Islamabad and Pakistan’s arsenal of 75 to 100 nuclear weapons, galvanised the Obama administration into extraordinary urgency, evident in statements from Obama and Hillary Clinton that the situation in Pakistan constituted a mortal threat to US security.

Quite simply, the prospect of the Taliban in possession of nuclear weapons terrifies Washington and ought to terrify everybody else.

In response to Washington’s urging, the Pakistani military has hit back at the Taliban and driven them out of many newly occupied territories. But the Pakistani military has acted with much less sophistication and discrimination than the Americans have ever done. They have shelled and bombed whole villages. Perhaps a million people are displaced within Pakistan. The Pakistani military is designed for only one thing: fighting India. It is one of the most incompetent counter-insurgency forces in the world.

Most Western analysts do not believe Pakistan is in danger of imminent state collapse. But they all recognise that the extremists are getting stronger and the state is getting weaker. Obama, who this week met Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai in Washington, has given the impression that Washington has a plan to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event of an emergency. This is almost certainly a bluff. Such an operation would be insanely complex.

Some Indian analysts believe Pakistan is already effectively a failed state. There are really several Pakistans: a civilian government that has lost public confidence and does not control its nation’s institutions or its territory; a military that is autonomous, unaccountable, divided and ineffective, and that continues to co-operate with the Afghan Taliban and terrorist groups attacking India; a civilian merchant class that is frustrated and hemmed in; and an active civil society that is denied any power.

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And Spengler is …

Aha — the pseudonymous “Spengler” (originally writing columns for Asia Times print editions) fame turns out to be one of Seekerblog’s reliable sources: former banker, former hedgie David P Goldman, who today writes the indispensable Inner Workings.

Since 1999 “Spengler” has written some 300 essays for Asia Times — so we who valued his writings did not have too long a wait between essays. Now there is even less of a wait, what with several essays each week appearing at Inner Workings, the “by Spengler” at Asia Times and David’s First Things essays, such as Demographics and Depression.

I recommend this site search which will provide you a ready list of sharp and insightful “Spengler” essays. I also recommend The Complete Spengler at Asia Times — which know hosts Spengler’s Forum.

Here is a fragment of the revelatory essay at Asia Times:

And Spengler is …

By Spengler

During the too-brief run of the Asia Times print edition in the 1990s, the newspaper asked me to write a humor column, and I chose the name “Spengler” as a joke – a columnist for an Asian daily using the name of the author of The Decline of the West.

Barely a dozen “Spengler” items appeared before the print edition went down in the 1997 Asian financial crisis. A malicious thought crossed my mind in 1999, though, as the Internet euphoria engulfed world markets: was it really possible for a medium whose premise was the rise of a homogeneous global youth culture to drive world economic growth?

Youth culture, I argued, was an oxymoron, for culture itself was a bridge across generations, a means of cheating mortality. The old and angry cultures of the world, fighting for room to breath against the onset of globalization, would not go quietly into the homogenizer. Many of them would fight to survive, but fight in vain, for the tide of modernity could not be rolled back.

As in the great extinction of the tribes in late antiquity, individuals might save themselves from the incurable necrosis of their own ethnicity through adoption into the eternal people, that is, Israel. The great German-Jewish theologian and student of the existential angst of dying nations, Franz Rosenzweig, had commanded undivided attention during the 1990s, and I had a pair of essays about him for the Jewish-Christian Relations website. Rosenzweig’s theology, it occurred to me, had broader applications.

The end of the old ethnicities, I believed, would dominate the cultural and strategic agenda of the next several decades. Great countries were failing of their will to live, and it was easy to imagine a world in which Japanese, German, Italian and Russian would turn into dying languages only a century hence. Modernity taxed the Muslim world even more severely, although the results sometimes were less obvious.

The 300 or so essays that I have published in this space since 1999 all proceeded from the theme formulated by Rosenzweig: the mortality of nations and its causes, Western secularism, Asian anomie, and unadaptable Islam.

Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers. I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.

I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

<snip>

As I wrote pseudonymously for Asia Times Online, new friends announced themselves – journalists, academics, clergy, and people of faith from many walks of life, not least the indefatigable group of good friends that manages the Spengler Forum. The editors of First Things asked me for an essay on Franz Rosenzweig and Islam, which I published in 2007, and later a piece entitled “Zionism for Christians”, which appeared in 2008 under the pseudonym “David Shushon”. That was a milestone for me.

I had subscribed to the journal not long after its inception in 1990, the year I finished my PhD coursework in music. To write for First Things was an unanticipated honor. I came to know the magazine’s editor Joseph Bottum, as well as such regular contributors as George Weigel, Russell Hittinger and R R Reno.

On January 8, 2009, the magazine’s founder Richard John Neuhaus died. A few weeks later Jody Bottum asked me to join the staff of First Things as an editor and writer. It seems only heartbeats ago that I was in dark seas, looking up at this beacon; now it is my turn to help keep the lighthouse.

As for Asia Times Online – this scrappy, virtual expat bar – I was there at the founding, and will contribute to it as long it continues to upload, if somewhat less frequently than before.

“Spengler” is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things (www.firstthings.com).

The Sunni-Shiite Terror Network

I’ve not read the referenced Obama speech — but I’ve found Amir Taheri to be a reliable source on Middle East and Iranian affairs.

The American presidential election campaign took a bizarre theological turn recently when Barack Obama accused John McCain of not being able to distinguish Sunnis from Shiites.

The exchange started when Sen. McCain suggested that the Islamic Republic in Iran, a Shiite power, may be helping al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit, in its murderous campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. Basing its position on received wisdom, the Obama camp implied that Sunnis and Shiites, divided as they are by deep doctrinal differences, could not come together to fight the United States and its allies.

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Honor killings

There is no clearer indicator of a “clash of civilizations” than the prevalence of honor killings in the Arab world. With all due respect to pluralism, universalism, and respect for the Other, here is a piece of intolerance that can unite all of us, left and right, liberal and conservative. The idea that one’s relationships are one’s own business is a cornerstone of liberal thinking. That a disapproved-of relationship justifies murder — that one should take pride in killing one’s own sister because of it — well, that’s just way, way outside the pale of anything we Westerners can handle. Honor killings are so shocking to even the most tolerant among us, that one wonders why the West has failed to express its moral outrage.

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Islam at the Ballot Box: a democratic surprise

But, as usual, democracy has surprised us. And on this occasion it has been a pleasant surprise.

More insights on the electoral failures of Islamist parties comes from The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan. As typical of Sheridan, the entire article is recommended. I’ll highlight just the segment correcting a common media theme:

One line of analysis that is quite wrong is to see the repudiation of Musharraf as a setback for the US, because Washington had given him some support.

This is analytically just plain wrong. Washington often does have to co-operate with dictators. That’s the nature of the real world. After 9/11, the US got Musharraf to turn Pakistani policy, at least at the official level, on its head and to co-operate in the fight against terror. This was necessary to remove the totalitarian and savage Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks on the US.

However, the US is constantly slandered over its dealings with dictators. In every case, while the US may need to co-operate with a dictator for urgent strategic and often enough humanitarian reasons, it always urges the dictator to liberalise and to return to democracy.

It is highly likely that without US pressure Musharraf may not have held elections at all, and may have decided to suspend the constitution indefinitely.

In so far as Musharraf was ineffective in combating terrorism and extremism, and failed to develop a civil society to form the basis of a democracy, it is not because he was associated with the Americans but precisely because he so often purused policies opposite to American advice.

The Americans always wanted him out of his uniform if he was going to be president. They wanted extremism confronted, which he never really did. They wanted the military out of politics, the reverse of Musharraf’s direction. They wanted a clear constitutional path followed, whereas Musharraf ripped up the constitution.

The most pro-American politician in recent years in Pakistan was the late Benazir Bhutto, and her party has just won a slashing victory.

In this week of momentous events it is worth reflecting on the quality and purpose of American influence in the world.

Kosovo is a newly independent, Muslim-majority nation that won its independence from nominally Christian Serbia. Its independence, and the avoidance by its population of ethnic cleansing or genocide, are a result entirely of US military power.

Yet, isn’t the US on a crusade against Islam?

In Cuba, the chief non-Islamic voice of anti-Americanism over the past 50 years, Fidel Castro, has, in the way of socialist dynasties throughout the world, handed over power to his brother. Thus, five decades of one-man Stalinist rule ends only because of ill health and involves power being retained by the royal family of Cuban communism.

So American influence means limits on dictators, elections, self-determination and independence, and anti-American radical chic means 50 years of Stalinism and poverty.

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Islam at the Ballot Box

Far from rejecting democracy because it is supposed to be “alien,” or using it as a means of creating totalitarian Islamist systems, a majority of Muslims have repeatedly shown that they like elections, and would love to join the global mainstream of democratization. President Bush is right to emphasize the importance of holding free and fair elections in all Muslim majority countries.

Tyrants fear free and fair elections, a fact illustrated by the Khomeinist regime’s efforts to fix the outcome of next month’s poll in Iran by pre-selecting the candidates. Support for democratic movements in the Muslim world remains the only credible strategy for winning the war against terror.

Iranian author Amir Taheri makes a credible case that Pakistan’s election confirms diminishing rather than increasing political strength of the Islamist parties.

Pakistan’s election has been portrayed by the Western media as a defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. The real losers were the Islamist parties.

The latest analysis of the results shows that the parties linked, or at least sympathetic, to the Taliban and al Qaeda saw their share of the votes slashed to about 3% from almost 11% in the last general election a few years ago. The largest coalition of the Islamist parties, the United Assembly for Action (MMA), lost control of the Northwest Frontier Province — the only one of Pakistan’s four provinces it governed. The winner in the province is the avowedly secularist National Awami Party.

Despite vast sums of money spent by the Islamic Republic in Tehran and wealthy Arabs from the Persian Gulf states, the MMA failed to achieve the “approaching victory” (fatah al-qarib) that Islamist candidates, both Shiite and Sunni, had boasted was coming.

The Islamist defeat in Pakistani confirms a trend that’s been under way for years. Conventional wisdom had it that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lack of progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict, would provide radical Islamists with a springboard from which to seize power through elections.

Analysts in the West used that prospect to argue against the Bush Doctrine of spreading democracy in the Middle East. These analysts argued that Muslims were not ready for democracy, and that elections would only translate into victory for hard-line Islamists.

The facts tell a different story. So far, no Islamist party has managed to win a majority of the popular vote in any of the Muslim countries where reasonably clean elections are held. If anything, the Islamist share of the vote has been declining across the board.

[read the whole thing]

What is the point of a paper of record that decides the untarnished record is too much for readers?

Christopher Hitchens examines the self-censorship of the western press.

Do you ever wonder what is the greatest enemy of the free press? One might mention a few conspicuous foes, such as the state censor, the monopolistic proprietor, the advertiser who wants either favorable coverage or at least an absence of unfavorable coverage, and so forth. But the most insidious enemy is the cowardly journalist and editor who doesn’t need to be told what to do, because he or she has already internalized the need to please—or at least not to offend—the worst tyranny of all, which is the safety-first version of public opinion.

Anyway, last week, almost every Danish newspaper made a deliberate decision to reprint the offending cartoons. Perhaps, if you live in most of the countries where this column of mine is syndicated or reprinted, you wonder what all the fuss can have been about. Certainly, if you live in the United States or Britain, you will be wondering still. This is because your newspapers have decided for you—as with Butz—that you must be shielded from the unpalatable truth. Or can it really be that? We live in the defining age of the image and the picture; how can it be that the whole point of an entirely visual story can be deliberately left out? (To see the original cartoons, by the way, click here.) I have a feeling that the decision to protect you from the images was determined this time by something as vulgar as fear.

The cowardice of the mainstream American culture was something to see the first time around. The only magazines that bucked the self-censorship trend, or the capitulation to undisguised terror, were the conservative Weekly Standard and the atheist Free Inquiry—two outlets (for both of which I have written) with a rather small combined circulation. Borders thereupon pulled Free Inquiry from its shelves, with the negligible consequence that I will never do a reading or buy a book at any of its sites ever again. (By the way, I urge you to follow suit.) I think it’s pretty safe to say that most Americans never even saw this sellout going on. But that was because their own newspapers were too shamefaced to report a surrender of which they were themselves a part.

In Canada, only two minority papers reprinted the cartoons. The Western Standard, now online only, and the Jewish Free Press were promptly taken before a sort of scrofulous bureaucratic peoples’ court describing itself as the Alberta Human Rights Commission. If you think that’s a funny name, try the title of the complainant: the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. Who knows how long such a stupid “hate speech” case might have dragged on or how much public money and time it might have consumed, but last week the Islamic supremes decided to drop it. “I understand that most Canadians see this as an issue of freedom of speech,” said Syed Soharwardy of the case that he had originated, adding “that principle is sacred and holy in our society.” Soharwardy went on to say, rather condescendingly perhaps, that: “I believe Canadian society is mature enough not to absorb the messages that the cartoons sent. Only a very small fraction of Canadian media decided to publish those cartoons.” Without the word not and without the sinister idea that Soharwardy’s permission is required for anything, that first sentence would have been a perfectly good if banal statement. But with the addition of his remark about the “small fraction” and the concomitant satisfaction about the general reticence, we have no choice but to conclude that Soharwardy is satisfied on the whole with the level of frightened deference to be found north of the U.S. border. I mention this only because the level of frightened deference to be found south of that border is still far in excess of what any censor, or even self-censor, might dare to wish.

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"Human rights" commissions: the case of Mark Steyn

Award-winning author Mark Steyn has been summoned to appear before two Canadian Human Rights Commissions on vague allegations of “subject[ing] Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt” and being “flagrantly Islamophobic” after Maclean’s magazine published an excerpt from his book, America Alone.

The public inquisition of Steyn has triggered outrage among Canadians and Americans who value free speech, but it should not come as a surprise. Steyn’s predicament is just the latest salvo in a campaign of legal actions designed to punish and silence the voices of anyone who speaks out against Islamism, Islamic terrorism, or its sources of financing.

The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), which initiated the complaint against Steyn, has previously tried unsuccessfully to sue publications it disagrees with, including Canada’s National Post. The not-for-profit organization’s president, Mohamed Elmasry, once labeled every adult Jew in Israel a legitimate target for terrorists and is in the habit of accusing his opponents of anti-Islamism — a charge that is now apparently an actionable claim in Canada. In 2006, after Elmasry publicly accused a spokesman for the Muslim Canadian Congress of being anti-Islamic, the spokesman reportedly resigned amidst fears for his personal safety.

The Islamist movement has two wings — one violent and one lawful — which operate apart but often reinforce each other. While the violent arm attempts to silence speech by burning cars when cartoons of Mohammed are published, the lawful arm is maneuvering within Western legal systems.

Islamists with financial means have launched a legal jihad, manipulating democratic court systems to suppress freedom of expression, abolish public discourse critical of Islam, and establish principles of Sharia law. The practice, called “lawfare,” is often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning and undertaken as a means to intimidate and bankrupt defendants.

Forum shopping, whereby plaintiffs bring actions in jurisdictions most likely to rule in their favor, has enabled a wave of “libel tourism” that has resulted in foreign judgments against European and now American authors mandating the destruction of American-authored literary material.

<more> wherein Brooke M. Goldstein chronicles the Islamist attacks on free speech in venues throughout the world.