Miss Him Yet?! Part II

Miss Him Yet?! Part I.

Speaking of the Cordoba Games, the ceaseless controversy over this thing has occasioned the return of a vintage character from Bushworld: Karen Hughes. In what is certain to be the former president speaking through an emissary, Ms. Hughes took to the pages of the Washington Post to civilly aid opposition to the Ground Zero mosque.

Here she is:

The proposed site of Park51, an Islamic cultural center that will include a mosque, is especially contentious because it goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I stood in the Oval Office just two days after those horrific attacks as President George W. Bush spoke by telephone with New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He highlighted the importance of distinguishing between those who committed the acts of terror and the broader Muslim community. "Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans who live in New York City, who love their flag just as much as the three of us do, and we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve," the president said.

Days later, I recommended to President Bush that he visit a mosque to set an example of respect for our fellow Americans who are Muslim. With anger still high and emotions raw, some argued against the visit to the Islamic Center of Washington, but the president felt it sent an important signal. "America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country," he said that day. "In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect."

In the decadence of his old age, George W. Bush appears to have receded into the kinder, gentler conservatism of Peggy Noonan, his father’s Karen Hughes. Good Lord.

… I became convinced that our nation should avoid the language of religion in our discussion of terrorist acts. When Americans say "Islamic" in front of "terrorists" or use religious terms such as "jihadist," many Muslims hear those words as an attack on their faith. Some of my fellow Republicans and conservatives have accused me of political correctness on this point, but that is not my rationale at all. I believe it is in America's strategic interest, and in the interest of defeating terrorism, that we make clear that we view most Muslims as our allies in a common struggle against extremists.

This sort of waspy condescension perfectly captures the compassionate—or nicer and softer or whatevs—conservatism of the Bushes. Ms. Hughes is very concerned that our sloppy designations for the mass murderers of 9/11 wound the sensibilities of good Muslims. (They exist!) Orly? While we all can’t be well-traveled courtiers to presidents like Karen Hughes, it only requires a modicum of intuition and common sense to know that normal, or “moderate,” Muslims are probably more animated by specific foreign policies than the American public’s linguistic sloppiness. Nice try, Karen.

[W]hen I was at the State Department, a Danish newspaper published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. The debate around the world was heated and strikingly similar to this one. It pitted those supporting the right of a free press to publish anything, no matter how offensive, against those who took to the streets and threatened death to the cartoonists. Many of those citing freedom as they advocate locating the mosque near Ground Zero were on the other side of the argument when it came to the cartoons. At that time, I joined with many Muslim friends in saying that while newspapers were free to publish the offensive materials, I hoped they would show respect and restraint and decide against it. That is an instructive model now.

Hughes’ obsequious, pc sensibilities led her to the wrong perspective on the Danish cartoon bonfire, but she’s correct in that the Ground Zero stuff is completely analogous to that situation. In those days, as a burgeoning agnostic—I have since graduated—I can recall being outraged by the threats of violence emanating from brutish Islamic reactionaries. These extremist actors were totally disdainful of the democratic customs of an open society; a true threat to the modern secular state we’ve achieved.

Though the contours of the Danish and Ground Zero controversies are remarkably alike, a key difference is the specific people for whom this isn’t all academic. With that in mind you don’t have to be a New Atheist bomb-thrower to sympathize a hell of lot more with folk who actually lost loved ones forever in the World Trade Center than hypersensitive Muslims unable to countenance even the artistic or satirical rendering of their Prophet.

A mosque at the edge of Ground Zero would be much more than a house of worship; it would be a symbol, interpreted differently by different audiences. For some it would be the ultimate expression of the freedom of religion we enjoy in America; for others, a searing reminder of terrible deaths at the hands of murderers calling themselves Muslims. I suspect that the terrorists might celebrate its presence as a twisted victory over our society's freedoms. Rauf and his congregation are certainly free to locate their mosque near Ground Zero. But I hope and pray that they will show uncommon courtesy and decide not to.

So there’s former president Bush speaking through Karen Hughes.

(Ms. Hughes, btw, is a cautionary tale for bright, young politicos. Reading Karen Hughes, or listening, for even a short period of time, to people like David Axelrod, Matthew Dowd, or Howard Wolfson, reminds me why personal attachment to politicians is ill-advised. A few reasons for this: 1) “They love you and then they stop lovin’ you,” is the inconvenient truth Billy Bob Thornton’s Carville character relays to the black George Stephanopoulos in Primary Colors; 2) They are often hapless losers—Imagine for a second how awkward and pwned Bush aides must have felt on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration; and 3) Some presidents grow increasingly unlikeable, pitiful or enamored of themselves in office.)

This declaration dashes the desperate hopes of Peter Beinart, Eugene Robinson, Maureen Dowd (an on-and-off flame of mine) and other liberals yearning for the “relatively” decent Bush to weigh in. Beinart and company’s brief idea of Beelzebul swooping in like some sort of deus ex machina to selflessly rescue Barack Obama from the fire of cultural backlash is a sign of the liberal establishment’s intellectual poverty. And it was fucking laughable, too.

A word concerning the current president: Obama’s behavior in this ordeal is entirely consistent with prior behavior. There was no need for the president to restlessly wade into the Henry Louis Gates Jr. affair last year and he did so anyway. He acted that impulsively only because the distinguished Harvard professor is a close personal friend.

What motivated the president to enter the Ground Zero fray is his “affinity” for Islam, as Krauthammer says it. Of course, this is perfectly understandable and more than fine for a person that came up with two Muslim fathers. Liberals should take the brave view that to the extent Barack Obama really is a secularized Muslim, it only makes him a more compelling figure, and leave it at that.

President Obama’s flaky reversal was far more revealing to this soft opponent of the mosque. Obama’s actions provided much humor for those of us who witnessed a host of liberal throne-sniffers falling over themselves to applaud the president for his uncharacteristic bravery. Instead of acknowledging they had been had once Obama completely reversed himself, their collective response was to clap louder. They have proven themselves to be a resilient bunch. Carrying the Obama cross grew to be impossible way back in the spring of 2008 for some of us, but like good devotees, they trek on.

Message to Dr. Dean: Count me as at least one black Democrat who might be open to lending you his Race card. You’ll need it if someone’s gonna mount a serious challenge to this feckless lawprof in the White House.

Tags: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Karen Hughes, Ground Zero Mosque (all tags)



the academy

Viewing the onslaught among the orthodox liberal as an acedemic exercise is useful, it certainly applies the objective lessons driveled through the AP that its really two large blocks away. That argument has no emotive sway and is designed to lose on a technicality (aside from the stray airplane parts that crashed into its ceiling).

But, placing the academic view alone for an explanation of the deranged symptoms spewed onto Dr Dean for example, lacks the crucial nexus for the onslaught.

Where did this emotion come from?

The whole meme was pushed by the rightwing extremists into the mainstream. For that alone, that hatred toward the likes of Pamela Geller, whom vaulted this issue, is enough to make loonies out of usually normal (pre-2008 primary anyway) progressive for a week.

Just consider for a moment if you could imagine the same folks up in arms about Mormans in some Utah city not letting a Evangelical church to happen... yea, sorta tough to imagine.  Look, these are atheists and agnostics we are talking about...

I'm not saying there are not serious 1st amendment folks (Glenn Greenwald in this case), but for the most part, the acedemics on the issue were just practicing partisan politics in the blogosphere.

Obama's role in this was certainly anti-midas.

Instead of acknowledging they had been had once Obama completely reversed himself; their collective response was to clap louder. They have proven themselves to be a resilient bunch. Carrying the Obama cross grew to be impossible way back in the spring of 2008 for some of us but like good devotees, they trek on.

Yes they can. I think there's something along the lines here to consider with '12 too, as that's the primary focus of any conversation in this WH.

As for Obama's religion. LOL here. He's round-a-bout is as best as can put it. The people who fall in the camp of "I don't know" are the only ones guessing correctly. Sure, he claims Christianity, perhaps for political sake, and his loyalists will ram it down the throat with absolutism that it ends there. It doesn't, thankfully.

That he was some different roots, affinity, is fine. The guy claims the evening muslim prayer is the most beautiful thing in the world to hear at sunset, and recites it without fault-- who can entirely fault people for taking him at his word. I think he's all of the above, including atheistic, which is better than any other President we've had-- too bad the politics don't allow him to just be who he is. But actually, given how inauthetic he is coming across now over the issue, I think he has nothing to lose at this point.

As for Hughes, it is mostly nonsense meant as a way to tell Obama, and his loyalists in the mainstream begging for GWB's cover, to cover his own back. But, she does call out Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf-- that's telling Rauf the funding is going to dry up. But I've interviewed Rauf, and he's got a real passion for injecting religion into politics, so I'm not surprised he's being this stubborn.

Rauf has actually triangulated this beautifully, pitting the orthodox liberals against the neo conservatives. Injecting this into the national debate is his goal, he's not a guy who believes in separation of church and state the way progressives do at all. He's out on a State Dept funded trip this week to a few Islamic countries. If this issue continues to dominate, he's going to become more of the focus.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-08-21 04:39PM | 1 recs
RE: the academy

O, yes, the Obambi become positively unhinged when his religion comes up. By now I had thought Obama's religion would be something liberals could wink and nod to each other about. I thought we'd be the adults about it.

For one thing, it's entirely possible for a politician to be of one faith publicly and have different religious convictions privately. It's no different than politicians that are obviously gay but still closeted. Liberals just shouldn't be hyperventilating about this sort of stuff. After all, we all know that there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim (aside from all religion being stupid) or gay.

Considering his rich and unique upbringing (William Ayers did a phenomenal job with that, didn't he?) my best guess has always been Obama's a secularized Muslim or an atheist. Which, again, makes him a more sympathetic figure in my book.

by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 06:06PM | 1 recs

One of the great things about this country is that everybody gets to decide for themselves what religion they are.

Obama says he's Christian, he's been attending a Christian church for 20 years, and thus, he's a Christian. Just move on, people.

by jeopardy 2010-08-22 01:05PM | 0 recs
Have Karl and George parting ways?
"Rove compares American Muslims to neo-Nazis and skinheads

Karl Rove, speaking on The O'Reilly Factor:

ROVE: The vast majority of the American people believe there is freedom of religion in our Constitution and that right of freedom of expression would be best exercised by not building it here. Look, in that same first amendment there’s a right to freedom of speech. Who believes that skinheads should show up at a Black sorority convention and scream bigoted remarks? Who believes there’s a right of freedom of assembly. Who believes Neo-Nazis should show up at the B’nai B’rith hotel and have their meeting in the next meeting room? There are rights everyone has that we think it’d be prudent to not exercise them at certain times.

If Karl Rove truly believes that American Muslims are just like neo-Nazis and skinheads, then perhaps he can explain why President Bush asked an imam to lead the post-9/11 service at the National Cathedral -- and why just a few days later, President Bush proudly accepted a Koran from the same imam while proclaiming that Islam is a religion of peace.

More likely, Rove doesn't believe that American Muslims are as bad as neo-Nazis. Instead, he's exploiting anti-Muslim bigotry for partisan political gain. And there's a name for that kind of behavior: moral cowardice."

by MainStreet 2010-08-21 05:47PM | 0 recs
RE: Have Karl and George parting ways?

I find it tremendously hard to believe that any of the high-profile media players in all of this genuinely care about the issue.

And no, I don't think there's necessarily any break between Rove and Bush. As you alluded in your last sentences there, Rove is a soulless political operative who sees partisan gain. George Bush is gone. He's out of the game. At this point he's more concerned with putting his head together with courtiers like Karen Hughes in order to salvage his reputation. I think Bush views himself as the new Harry Truman, and the immediate failure of his cocky successor vindicates him, he thinks.

by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 05:53PM | 0 recs
The flap

This whole flap reminds me of the faux controversy when Keith Ellison was due to take the oath of office on a Koran. Certainly this is not the vision that liberals & progressives had for America. 

Though the contours of the Danish and Ground Zero controversies are remarkably alike, a key difference is the specific people for whom this isn’t all academic. With that in mind you don’t have to be a New Atheist bomb-thrower to sympathize a hell of lot more with folk who actually lost loved ones forever in World Trade Center than hypersensitive Muslims unable to countenance even the artistic or satirical rendering of their Prophet.

Maybe the actual similarity is that in both cases Muslims were the bad guys. In the Danish Cartoon case their Prophet was portrayed as a terrorist and they were told to suck it up and respect the freedom to insult that is a core western tradition (lol). While in this case they are the skin-heads and Nazis and being overly insensitive because they wanted to build a place of worship & service in the lower manhatten muslim exclusion zone. 

As for the President he had no real choice - the country is demonstrating an unacceptable level of xenophobia, which makes the ability of US forces overseas to hand-off to their Islamic counterparts more difficult. That along with the fact that it goes against core American principles (atleast as understood by liberals) seems reason enough.

by vecky 2010-08-21 07:06PM | 1 recs
RE: The flap

Immature as it may be, I couldn't possibly care any less about satirists giving Muhammad a rough time. Larry David pissed on a portrait of Christ last season, and it was hilarious. Just because a lot of American Christians double as politically-armed reactionaries doesn't permit the common left-wing double standard of skewering Christ but not Muhammad. That's what liberal democracy is all about. Hypersensitive Muslims (or Christians) can take a hike, or eat a dick, as far as I'm concerned.

by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 07:15PM | 1 recs
RE: The flap

There is no left-wing double standard, that is simply a RW talking point. Peace and tolerance to all is the only lw standard I know of. The so called Muslim "hypersensitivity" is way over blown, it is, in the west no different from the sensitivity of other religious groups.  Violent protests only take place in the developing world, where violent protests are common - be it over pictures of prophets or the price of vegetables. Try pissing on Christ in the Philippines or Uganda and see what happens.

Which leads me to an interesting story - when I was in India I saw a wall along the railway tracks painted with pictures of various deities - hindu ones and Christ as well. I asked why and was told it was to stop people from urinating or spitting on the wall. 

by vecky 2010-08-21 07:26PM | 1 recs
RE: The flap

Of course there's a double standard! Where are all the tv shows and books by brilliant liberal satirists skewering the killjoy backwardness of Islam? Where was Mike Bloomberg and his gang during the Danish nonsense?

I'm not a pc liberal. I'd argue my blackness makes me I'm accustomed to raw humor and political irreverance. To the extent this kind of freedom isn't prevalent in the developing world is justification for us... to develop them! In caring for the downtrodden (unlike your average conservative or libertarian), liberals must be careful not to overly-accommodate or excuse the deprivations of undeveloped minds.

by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 07:36PM | 2 recs
RE: The flap

There are plenty of liberal reporting on human rights abuses in Islamic countries - just see the reports by Amnesty Intl, HRW or dozen of other NGO's. In fact it's pretty much only liberal reporting. 

I'm not sure your blackness has anything to do with it, maybe your upbringing or exposure. The developing world will change once it develops. Economic development and respect for universal human rights go hand in hand. As China industrializes and gains in wealth, laborers are starting to organize for better wages and living conditions, just as they did in the west. Life rather than being a desperate cycle of poverty, illiteracy and the like starts to gain value. That's how it works. 

by vecky 2010-08-21 08:28PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

I was referring to culture. And I don't see how anyone can deny the wide disparity between satirical disrespect of Christianity and Islam in the mainstream culture. Competent reporting in wonky policy publications was not what I meant by double standard.

Your second passage was very good. I'm not sure what relevance or connection it had to my prior response, lol, but it it very good and I agree completely.


by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 08:40PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

Well, I think the wide disparity can be explained simply via exposure... islam is too small a subset of the population to be an effective object of widespread satire. One doesn't see much satire of Hinduism or Buddhism for much the same reason. And it's not as if satire doesn't exist completely - Team America and Achmed the Dead Terrorist come to mind. 

by vecky 2010-08-21 08:55PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

Christianity is a far more dangerous influence on Americans than Islam. There's not much danger of Muslims legislating their morality onto others in this country.

This should be obvious.

by jeopardy 2010-08-22 01:07PM | 1 recs
RE: The flap

yea, they won't legislate it IN THIS COUNTRY. In this country, they'll guilt trip their morality onto you.

Now in Europe, where their population is growing too rapidly for their own economic good, and in the Middle East...

by Lakrosse 2010-08-22 09:52PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

Oh please.

If there's any group we are not in danger of our representatives legislating for, it's Muslims.

How many are in Congress? How about State legislatures. Compare that to Christians or Jews. How much is the public clamoring for the Koran to be put into our laws? Compare that to the Bible.

And lets face it, if the term "Jews" or "Christians" were substituted for "Muslims" in the cable news and talk radio discussions the last few weeks, there would be massive public outcry for the disgusting rhetoric. Yet it's ok somehow because Muslims are more hated.

by jeopardy 2010-08-22 10:51PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

I said that. What I meant is that Islamists like Rauf, and his far-left friends, such as yourself, will guilt trip us all, call us racist, to allow things like the Ground Zero Mosque to happen. Harry Reid and Howard Dean oppose this mosque. Are they "racists?"

Also, the Imam has said he thinks America should be "sharia compliant," and is on record supporting sharia law, and barely saying a peep about beheading, stoning, honor killings, amputation, etc.

Also, Jews and Christians would not be subbed for the word "Muslims" in this case because Jews, as Jews for Judaism, have not committed mass murder against Americans, nor have Christians, as Christians doing it specifically for Christ, done so either. I'm not saying all Muslims are responsible for September 11. But you don't put up a huge monument to something which inspired a mass murder near the grave site. If a bunch of evangelicals bombed an entire hospital where abortion was being done, and Pat Robertson tried to build a 10 story church near there, hidden behind the words "cultural center," I'm sure you'd oppose it. And I'd sure as hell do so too, because I'd be sensitive to the victims families, in addition of course to disagreeing with the cause. But I wouldn't oppose all evangelical churches and it wouldn't mean I hate all evangelicals, as not all evangelicals are crazy. No one is opposing the building of all mosques, nor has anyone promoted a minaret ban in this country. 

Yes there is some terrible rhetoric behind the protests, some of the people against it are a little nuts. But so are many of the people for it. But as I've said, most Americans support the constitutional right to build it, but think it should not be at the location, given how crassly ostentatious it is. The fact is that Islam was the motivating factor behind September 11. Why remind victims's loved ones everytime they walk to the place of that? Even Muslims are thinking this, as listed above.

by Lakrosse 2010-08-23 01:04AM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

who cares what he "wants" to do? There's absolutely ZERO, none, nada, no chance that he's going to get our elective officials to impose Sharia law (which would require changing the US Constitution).

But there's a much bigger chance of anti-Constitutional-freedom-of-religion people like you getting their feeling enshrined into law by targeting unpopular minority groups.

by jeopardy 2010-08-23 06:04PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

Islam was not the motivating factor behind 9/11. Bin Laden was. He was not, last time I checked, any sort of religious leader of any standing. 

Besides, you know there would be zero objection to a church built within a couple of blocks of a bombed out hospital. In fact it would be welcomed.

by vecky 2010-08-23 10:39PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

The Israeli right wing know that, but it's not the point. The point was made nine years ago by Israel's current PM, Netanyahu. 9/11 is the best thing that could ever happen to Israel. It permitted Israeli hasbara (propaganda) services to turn the Palestinians, a majority of whom are Muslim, into terrorists, while Israel quietly continued its occupation, whose sole purpose was to confiscate their lands.

It is called colonialism. 9/11 was a spur to Israel's colonialism of all of Palestine, the Likud objective we are now see being played out.

by MainStreet 2010-08-24 07:32PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

I think as far as Israel is concerned most Pals were terrorists regardless of and prior too 9/11. Certainly after 9/11 sympathy for the Pals did decrease in the US somewhat, which was sort of inevitable, however it's important to remember that their wasn't much sympathy to begin with. So I don't think you can call 9/11 a spur to anything in the Israel-Pal dispute other than the invasion of Iraq.

by vecky 2010-08-24 09:00PM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

I didn't say so. Netanyahu did.

As far as Palestinians being terrorists, if terrorism is view as the intentional killing of civilians, then certainly Israel was into terrorism far beyond anything the Palestinians did.

Sharon, and now Olmert, Livni, and Barak, are wanted war criminals for their crimes against humanity. And none of them ever traveled outside of Israel or the US for fear of being arrested and transport to the Hague.

by MainStreet 2010-08-25 01:18AM | 0 recs
RE: The flap

There is a tremendous double-standard at practice here among the left-wing.

Perhaps one doesn't see much satire of Hinduism or Buddhism for the simple fact that those religions are more sympatico with a progressive-libertarian worldview. That's not to say the lack of exposure is not in play, but I don't believe the lack of Islamic mocking can be chalked up to the lack of exposure alone. Look at the context.

There's a backlash among some liberals going on here, aimed toward those who are targeting muslims with a broad stroke, akin to support of the victim. And as you would expect, its most prevelent among liberal minorities in the US (its ironically much of the same groups that have for decades been pushing for limiting of free speech via hate speech laws).

The lack of exposure translates also into this benign ignorance that buckets this whole controversy into a "community center" instead of a place of Islamic faith and worship. That's taking multiculturalism to new heights or relativism that has a slippery slope. Part of the discussion here should be how ignorant the Islamic faith is in parts-- now that would fall under the role of a real liberal on the issue.

The best notion to come out of this whole flap is the gay community response that they would open a gay blog for muslims right across from Cordoba. The respose by Park51 was that it would be an affront to the congregations sensibilities to do so.

And I would just counter your argument that its only in the developing countries by pointing you to a poll in the UK:

Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country, a survey reveals today.

The ICM opinion poll also indicates that a fifth have sympathy with the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July 7, killing 52 people, although 99 per cent thought the bombers were wrong to carry out the atrocity.

There's a vital role here to be played by the left-wing, and culture especially, in using persuasive mocking and beligerent abuse of ignorance (along with acceptance of the rights given in the US mind you), so at least so their children are not as foolish. I don't think that "peace and tolerance" is going to make that happen.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-08-22 07:35AM | 2 recs
RE: The flap

I think the suggestion was to open a gay bar across the now renamed Park 51 project, not a blog.

I have one Saudi friend who lives here. Studied engineering at the Colorado School of the Mines realized that he was gay and chose not to go back to Jeddah. His father disowned him and has told him that he does return he will kill him. His mother risks her life and goes to great lengths to stay in touch with her son in secret. Gay honour killing in the Islamic world are not uncommon though certainly honour killings of women are far more prevalent. 5,000 a year in Pakistan, the worst offender. Iraq now has the dubious honour of leading the world in gay homicides overtaking Brazil a country that is 9 times larger.

This whole debate is so troubling and I'm very conflicted. I'm not keen on Islam but I'm not keen on religion generally and I have an exceptional dislike of and contempt for proselytizing monotheistic religions. Read Jonathan Kirsch's God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism or the more scholarly Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason. The Freeman book is a classic clearly demonstrating the deleterious influence of Paulite Christianity upon the Hellenistic world and ultimately upon Western Civ. Most people even today think that Christianity is a product of Western thought but it's not. It's an import and one that came to dominate but one that is increasingly out of sync as secular humanist values return to the fore. 

In the ancient world, it was a virtue to think for oneself. Christianity killed that aspect so prevalent in the Hellenistic Mediterranean. But Paul of Tarsus, a Jew with ties with the Essenes, successfully implanted his views on what was then the infant Christian communities in the Hellenistic world. Paul reasserted the ancient Jewish beliefs and began the three century long transformation of Christianity. First came the ascetics such Origen of Alexandria who castrated himself so that he could preach the gospel to women. In Greek culture, sexuality was to be celebrated. In Abrahamic ones, it is to be repressed. Men could not interact with unrelated women. But it is the rise of neoplatonism that wove Christian Semitic ideology into the Greco-Roman world that proved the final blow. Neoplatonism first under Plotinus, who again had a very Abrahamic view that all sex is dirty, pushed the view that faith comes before and trumps empirical evidence. For 1700 years, this has been the battle within Western thought. It is a battle we continue to see first hand every time say evolution vs creationism is discussed. Evolution is based on the empirical study on the natural world as the Greeks espoused (empiricism and skepticism are Greek words and concepts) while creationism is taken on faith. There are those who try to bridge both worlds. On the one hand these folks look to science for answers about the natural world but then they succumb to fear and look to faith on matters they perceive as spiritual. You cannot do both. But this was the leap of logic that neoplatonism accomplished.  In fact, neoplatonism destroyed Western empiricism for almost thousand years. The fight to restore science to primacy has been a long and arduous battle.

Ironically, the Islamic world fared better at first in this regard. When Islam exploded out of Arabia in the 7th century, it discovered the remnants of the Hellenistic world in Alexandria. For the next six centuries, empiricism did thrive in pockets of the Muslim world but over the long haul the reach of faith closed the Islamic mind to reason. 

But the matter now at hand revolves another Western virtue. Tolerance is a core Western value but there are limits to tolerance. One cannot be tolerant with the wholly intolerant. This is true with Islam as it is true with racism. Tolerance is a two way street. You give tolerance so as to receive it back. You can not extend tolerance to those who would reject it.

Yet at the same time I have hard time painting all of Islam with such a broad stroke. I've lived in Indonesia and spend months at a time in Islamic West Africa. But I've also been to Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco. So I know that there are vast differences within Islam.  I almost took a job last year in Saudi Arabia but in the end I couldn't live in Riyadh. Had the job been in al-Bahah or in Jeddah I would have taken it with some trepidation but also knowing that even within Saudi Arabia there are differences within Islamic practices. But Wahhabi, Deobandi and Shia Islam should be perceived as threats to our way of life though I certainly believe that co-existence with the Islamic world is not just possible but necessary. While I am cognizant of the harsh life for women and minorities in places like Afghanistan and Somalia, to impose Western values by force is equally wrong. People will defend their culture to the death. Just look at the extremes to which evangelicals in this country are going. They built their own parallel country within the country in their desperate attempt to fend off the advances of secular humanism which they believe to be evil, ungodly and non-Western.

But I view Christianity as little different than Islam. Both have produced "kinder, gentler forms" such as the Quakers and Sufism but that's because their adherents accentuate the positive and disregard the negative that's clearly there. Leviticus is hard to deny just as the hadiths that call for murder or non-believers are impossible to deny. It's actually remarkable how similar Christianity and Islam are in their missionary zeal. Judaism, at least, doesn't seek forced conversions.

Abrahamic religions are not Western, they are Semitic. Semitic culture was a desert culture with a very negative view of sex and a very paternalistic view of male-female relationships where women are viewed as property with few rights. Just to bring how pervasive this notion still is, Phyllis Schlalfy believes that rape within marriage does not exist. A husband can demand sex on demand and the wife has no recourse but to submit to intercourse. That's a Semitic belief. Hellenistic culture was far different in its view on sex, on human relationships generally, and most of all Hellenic beliefs are based on the view that natural world can observed and studied. Abrahamic thought rests on the belief that everything is God-given. In short Hellenism is based on the human power of reason, and Abrahamic religions are based on faith. Faith is, of course, entirely irrational because it dictates contradicting what you yourself can observe.

I'm not usually so blunt, but I've tired of these endless religious debates. other off. With all the pressing problems we face, we are spending countless hours on a cultural center that happens to have a prayer room facing towards Mecca. But I am more disturbed by the likes of Pam Geller and Robert Spencer who claim they are defending Western Culture when they are most assuredly not. Geller and Spencer represent everything that Hellenism decried.

by Charles Lemos 2010-08-22 05:27PM | 2 recs
RE: The flap

blog, bar, yea, quite the difference.

With Schlalfy & Sharia as bookends, its annoying to even have to be pressed to choose a side. I wouldn't and totally agree that the tolerance here is not to be expected for free.

For that reason, I don't think that turning it off is what we should do, but instead should force them on their own lack of demanding an end to the intolerance. Especially the so-called moderates-- press them to the point where they must often dismiss their extremists within their religion, and demand that they change.

I don't want to hear moderates ask out for tolerance to others outside their religious sect, I want them calling out the intolerant in their own religion.

If they want to be called a moderate and hold themselves as some sort of religious pillar of society, then their first and foremost societal task is to not to blowhard about our protecting your religious rights as the end of the discussion-- point that moderate blowhorn at their extremist cohorts and call them out for their intolerance.

I don't see that sort of clarity coming from Rauf.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-08-22 07:50PM | 1 recs
well Rauf is an extremism in moderate's clothing

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-feisal-abdul-rauf/what-shariah-law-is-all-a_b_190825.html notice what he says and doesn't say.

by Lakrosse 2010-08-23 01:09AM | 0 recs
RE: well Rauf is an extremism in moderate's clothing

Even what he says is enough for me to wonder wtf:

What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-08-23 09:03AM | 1 recs
RE: The flap

"Perhaps one doesn't see much satire of Hinduism or Buddhism for the simple fact that those religions are more sympatico with a progressive-libertarian worldview."

You've got to be joking. 

I think your making the same mistake of confusing pop culture as some sort of evidence of a "leftist double-standard". Jay Leno, Russel Peters and the like aren't necessarily leftist - they are entertainers, and their satire is based on their targeted audience. "The Left" has no control over pop culture, so lets not do what conservatives do and confuse the two together. For evidence of a double standard you need to look at actual left policy organisations such as HRW, Amnesty, the ACLU etc. And as far as I can see they criticize Islam aplenty.

by vecky 2010-08-23 05:30PM | 0 recs
RE: Miss Him Yet?! Part II

No, people are just reticent about being blown up. I mean, c'mon. 

by Jack Landsman 2010-08-21 09:07PM | 0 recs


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