March 26th, 2006

Conflict of laws: the Abdul Rahman case

[NOTE: I wrote the bulk of this post late last night, and am now happy to report that the charges against Rahman have been dropped. I've added to the post to reflect that updated information, but the issues involved are still basic controversies and tensions that exist between Islam and the West, and within Islam itself.]

The blogosphere is abuzz with the Abdul Rahman apostasy case in Afghanistan. It’s an extremely dramatic example of the ways in which Islamic law is in basic conflict with cherished Western Enlightenment ideals of religious freedom and human rights.

The beef is with sharia itself, as this article points out (via Dr. Sanity)):

What the case allows the West, and the moderates, to do is to give a name to the enemy, and the name is shari’a…The question thus becomes, which way is the current trend trending? In many ways, it seems the moderate Islamic states are on the defensive against the radicals. The Rahman case, by publicizing the most odious side of shari’a, will ultimately help move the trend in the right direction. Either the man will be martyred, or the authorities will have to back down. And if they back down, it will be clear that they, and the forces of radicalism and repression, have suffered a defeat.

Today we have learned that, at least for now, the forces of repression have suffered a defeat. The line in the sand was drawn, and the sharia court blinked.

Courts–even sharia-based courts, it seems–have myriad ways of avoiding coming to certain verdicts that they wish to circumvent. In this case, the ostensible reason for the dropped case was lack of evidence. But the truth is probably that the pressure brought to bear by the West was too great, and that a guilty verdict would have damaged the fragile Karzai government.

But there’s no way to know to what extent this result also reflects moderate forces within the nation and Islam itself–because such a war is going on, and has been going on for a very long time. It’s very hard to gauge the actual numbers of the forces on each side, but it seems fairly clear that, since the Iranian revolution of the late 70s, the forces of repression have been in the ascendance. Whether or not this case represents a turning point in that process remains to be seen. But allowing for and encouraging such a turning point was one of the goals of the Afghan War.

The fact that this case was brought at all is an outrageous state of affairs, especially in a country liberated by the West from the yoke of the Taliban (and, somewhat off the topic, it’s no surprise to me that the issue was first raised in the bitter atmosphere of a custody battle). Who doesn’t recall those Christian aid workers who were facing the death penalty at the hands of the Taliban for proselytizing, and who were freed by the Afghan invasion, much to our great relief? Now, irony of ironies, the government that replaced the Taliban, installed at the cost of bloodshed, seemed about to come close to committing a similarly egregious offense against religious freedom.

Historical parallels with the Inquisition and the low points of other religions in this arena are quite beside the point; as the Baron at Gates of Vienna points out, this case happened now.

Since the entire question of change is one that interests me greatly, this case has made me think about the more general question of how laws evolve (much too big a question for me to tackle in depth at this moment, but maybe someday…). The horrific excesses of the Inquistion, as well as our traditional laws outlawing heresy (originally punishable by death) and blasphemy didn’t disappear overnight, after all. Their demise was the result of a process of slow attrition reflecting cultural and philosophic changes in society as a whole. The usual course of events in such matters is a slowly decreasing number of prosecutions through a lessening of prosecutorial zeal, increasing leniency of sentences, and then the repeal of the law (that last de jure step is often eliminated, if it has already happened anyway, de facto). The disposition of the Rahman case–dismissal–is consistent with this process, speeded up no doubt by outside pressures.

It’s not unheard of that gradual internal processes of change are accelerated by more forced external pressures. For example, when we took over countries through force in the past, we usually imposed certain rules on those countries from the outside (for example, in post-WWII American-occupied Japan, MacArthur and the Americans wrote the Japanese constitution to conform to our idea of what was needed). With great responsibility came a great ability to dictate things.

In recent years, however, we’ve shied away from imposing our will out of respect for and tolerance of the belief system of other cultures. The Rahman trial not only starkly highlighted the inevitable conflict between moderate Islamic countries (or those striving for moderation) and the parallel track of sharia law in those states, but the conflict between our new efforts at nation-building and our desire to conform to PC delicacy while doing so. Both conflicts seem inevitable, and certainly are not going to disappear with the disappearance of the charges against Abdul Rahman.

Here’s an excellent summation of the contradictions inherent in the hastily-drawn-up Afghan Constitution. The Constitution explicitly endorses the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which defends religious freedom–and, in particular, the freedom to convert–while it upholds sharia law, which of course requires the death penalty for Moslem apostasy. So here we have a conflict of laws situation.

Freedom of religion is a secular, Enlightenment viewpoint, the result of massive societal change that occurred in the West over the course of centuries. If we seek to drag a country such as Afghanistan into supporting freedom of religion, there is going to be a disagreement of fairly huge proportions. Old-fashioned imperialists were upfront and–well, imperial–about this sort of conflict; they didn’t shy away from imposing their points of view, and believed in the superiority thereof.

There’s that old British statement about the custom of suttee in India (the burning alive of the wife when the husband dies) which I quoted here in a post about the contradictions inherent in tolerating the intolerent. Mark Steyn has quoted the same incident in a column directly about the Rahman case:

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

The truth is that the whole concept of “tolerance” is a mockery if it extends to tolerating the intolerent. Logically speaking, one precludes the other; the two contain a paradox that renders them incompatible. And what we tolerate within our own borders and society is one thing; what we allow another society to do is another. Ordinarily we have no say in the matter, but Afghanistan is a case in which, although it’s a sovereign country, we have what one might call a “special relationship” towards it.

So the outcome of this case–which was a test of how far the Afghan government is willing to go towards tolerating the intolerant within its own borders–was also a case of how far we are willing to go in tolerating the intolerent in a country in which we have, for better or for worse (and so far it is for better) engaged in regime change and nation-building. The fact that the Afghan court backed down allows us the luxury of taking our time to answer the question of how far we are willing to go, but it’s a question that won’t go away (and who knows what pressure we in fact brought to bear behind the scenes?).

Nations are not built–or rebuilt–in a day, and profound cultural change is ordinarily not a fast process. Fast-tracking such change has been a dilemma faced over and over in the last several hundred years, with differing consequences: from Russia and Peter the Great, to Western imperialist ventures around the globe, to our own “melting pot,” to Turkey and Ataturk, to the aforementioned Allies and Japan, to the Shah and Iran, to France and the wearing of the veil among her Moslem immigrant population–and to the coalition and the Karzai government in Afghanistan. No doubt similar dilemmas will face us in Iraq.

The dismissal of the case has allowed Karzai to buy time. Personally, I would love to see the Karzai government abolish the death penalty for apostasy. But in doing so against the will of the people, it might be setting itself up for that very thing so many are wary of in Iraq: civil war. Feelings run high; Karzai is in an “awkward position” indeed.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to go too far too fast; the results can be a retrenchment. As it is, it seems likely that Rahman himself may have to go into exile for his own protection against those who would take an extra-legal sort of revenge against him.

One thing is certain: this case has spotlighted the glaring intolerance of sharia law and traditional Islamic rules about apostasy, an intolerance that is at odds with the defense of human rights to which the new government of Afghanistan aspires. This contradiction will not go away easily, and must be faced sooner or later by that government and that society, within Islam itself, and between Islam and the West.

The only question is whether it must be faced sooner and through radical change, or whether a temporary way out can be found in order for a more gradual process to occur–and whether such change is compatible with Islam. Can a change about such a fundamental part of the religion ever be assimilated into Moslem thought in the way in which similar changes have been integrated into other religions? The jury is still out on that one.

61 Responses to “Conflict of laws: the Abdul Rahman case”

  1. Rick J Says:

    I have been following a site now for almost 2 years and I have found it to be both reliable and profitable. They post daily and their stock trades have been beating
    the indexes easily.

    Take a look at Wallstreetwinnersonline.com

    RickJ

  2. Bezuhov Says:

    And given that Samuel told Saul that somone else had already been chosen by God (David) to be king in this episode, it is arguable that Saul’s reign truly continued.

  3. Bezuhov Says:

    You missed my “to be fair” caveat. The original disagreement was whether the same person was priest and king. I think the quoted passage makes clear that was not the case here.

  4. Ben-David Says:

    Bezuhov – the incident you quote is not the end of Saul’s reign.

    It is clear from chapter 14 that the intent was for a miraculous victory – Saul’s major error in Chatper 13 was not usurping the priestly role – in fact, the offering of sacrifices by laymen outside the tabernacle was common then – but that he did not follow Samuel’s prophetic instructions for conduct of the war: instead he was concerned with the number of recruits.

    Yet in Chapter 14 Saul’s own son Jonathan is miraculously victorious although outnumbered – this was the original plan.

    Saul is given a second chance in Chapter 15. Look at verse 15:11 – far from competing with Saul, Samuel is grieved with God’s final decision, and pleads that it not be so.

    It’s clear that in both situations, Saul’s leadership was lacking. There is very little evidence of political infighting with Samuel, as you implied.

  5. Bezuhov Says:

    Ben-David, I was refering to the following passage. Apologies for the Christian Bible, as I don’t have the Tanakh handy, and this is the only English translation I have available:

    From I Samuel 13:

    “Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favor of the LORD’; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you. The LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, 14 but now your kingdom will not continue; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

    Later in the text, Samuel offers Saul a second chance, in which the events you recount take place. Clearly the first concern of Samuel is Saul’s overstepping his bounds in offering the burnt offering, which was Samuel’s duty.

  6. Mitch Says:

    I think we may have backed into a solution here: Abdul Rahman has asked for political asylum. If he is given permission to come to the US as a political refugee, how long do you think it will take before we see mass coversions of Muslims to Christianity across the Middle East and the rest of Asia? Followed, of course, by a visit to the US embassy. Now all we have to do is figure out where to put them all, once the Muslim countries empty out.

  7. Ymarsakar Says:

    Religious fanaticism is not a problem. Because if religious fanaticism had to fight military supremacy, military supremacy always wins hand downs all the time. Just look at American history. Not even the South could break away from a strong central fedearl government.

    If you maintain and hold military supremacy, religion becomes peaceful. If you don’t main military supremacy, then religion becomes violent.

    All in all, Turkey is not a US ally and Bush should stop treating them as if they are. Bush needs to treat real allies like real allies, like maybe lobbying for Polish/Eastern Europe visa waivers with his so called ‘political capital’. Bush also needs to treat real enemies as real enemies. He is terrible at this. I don’t know if he is naturally this naive (one reason France stabbed him in the back, nobody with a clue in America trusts the French with anything) or if his advisers are all incompetents. But regardless, we are not going to get more allies if Bush reward Turkey, who tried to invade Kurdistan and take it over, contrary to our interests and the Kurd’s, who are our allies.

    The problem in this war of ours, is rather simple. We give rewards to a lot of people, but we don’t punish anyone. It is asymptomatic of the judges in America saying they don’t believe in punishemnts. Bush, to me, seems to not believe that punitive expeditions and punitive repercussions are beneficial to American security interests.

    If the nations of this world are not pushed for their actions when they try to harm the US, then the will keep on doing it. Regardless of the bribes and rewards we try to give them. Fear, as always, is far more beneficial to the United States of America than being “liked”.

    Those who “liked us” didn’t prevent 9/11, it didn’t prevent Pearl Harbor, and it sure as heck didn’t save those Rangers in Somalia. Forget about being liked, America, it is time to grow up and graduate from High School. We’re beyond kiddy play here.

  8. grackle Says:

    Neocon, I thought for awhile before including Sirhan Sirhan on the list but decided he fit anyway because his religion didn’t shelter him from the hysterical hatred engendered by the larger Islam-dominated society he came from.

    It’s a religious war the world is in. It is not a war which the West has sought & most political elements in the West have not comprehended its true nature but it is a war about which it will ultimately be impossible to be ignorant.

    This war transcends borders; borders are nothing to Islam. The West is not fighting nations or governments or political leaders – it is fighting Islam. As we are seeing with the Rahman case, government in a Middle Eastern nation is merely an arm of Islam.

    Someone mentioned Turkey. But Turkey seems to me to be secular in name only, like Saddam’s Iraq. When the chips are down Turkey is an Islamic state pretty much like the rest. Holding elections or the presence of a dictatorship does not mean the government is secular, because the society, including most of the individuals within the government, is still thoroughly non-secular in outlook & expectation. The prudent Middle Eastern elected body or dictator cooperates with Islam(as Saddam did), allows Islam full control of daily life within the state & a strong, perhaps decisive voice within government & policy formulations. If it quacks like a duck it is a duck.

    Comparing our Christian fundamentalists to Islamic fundamentalists is like comparing a fart to a hurricane.

  9. grackle Says:

    Steve, the point is if a terrorist nuke destroyed an American city the POTUS would not know which bunch of assholes gave it to them. I ask again, what you think a POTUS would do or should do in such an event?

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Neo, like most American women, has the tendency to take freedom of expression to its absolute theoretical limits. It’s happened a lot on blogs, lately. Greyhawk for example. Even to the extent of allowing bad actions.

    I’m not nearly as liberal, as our liberal hostess.

    The gays trying to impose gay marriage, and the polygamists trying to impose polygamy, aren’t the secular humanists and nor are they the ones advising Afghanistan on their future path.

    In point of fact, polygamy is what Afghanistan is trying to get away from, helped by America.

    The United States cannot afford polygamy, but we have the institution of tolerance. Afghanistan has the institution of Shariah and Islam, and they cannot afford polygamy.

    You might as well compare civic engineering with electrical engineering.

  11. Ben-David Says:

    Bezuhov;
    Saul was not deposed because of Samuel’s political yearnings, he was deposed for not enforcing an explicitly prophetic command. In the process, he betrayed his weakness in the face of public opinion – not a very good trait for a leader, then or now.

    This is written explicitly in the Biblical text.

    Have you read the Bible – or just books telling you why you need not read it?

  12. Ben-David Says:

    Steve wrote:
    The separation of Church and State and the “privatization” of religion means, in many cases, that the practice of one’s religion may not have any relationship to the outside world. And that is nonsense. Secular humanism is also a religion, I might add, and not a particularly good one, either.
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

    Then we have to be honest and admit that we have not solved the problem of religious freedom in the civil society we are seeking to spread to others.

    The recent attempts to impose gay-friendly policies on Catholic Charities and other religious organizations makes it clear that the secular humanists – empowered by the doctrine of separation of Church and State – are pursuing and persecuting their “infidels” just as fiercely as the Church itself did when it held powers of government.

    So it’s not just in Scandinavia.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am a proud American Jew – proud of both the Judeo-Christian and the American democratic parts of my heritage, and seeing clearly the overlap between them.

    But I agree with Churchill that this is just the least bad system, and American democracy is the least bad of the democracies.

    For all the huffing about our Western solution, it still is not perfect and we have to see and admit that.

    We should also see clearly just how unique the American approach is – even among other Western democracies. In most European countries, Christianity receives government support and is considered part of the “national heritage”. For instance:

    - there are crucifixes in classrooms in most of Italy, and in many German districts.

    - the guidance staff in French public schools includes a Catholic priest

    - taxpayer funds support public religious festivals, underwrite the upkeep of church property, and sometimes pay part of the church’s budget. This is true almost everywhere in Europe.

    - the church still fulfills a titular role in public ceremony – the most obvious example is the Anglican Church in the UK.

    … all this is accepted as normal and natural – and it is in countries that are culturally homogeneous! – despite the envervated nature of Christian faith in most of Europe.

    The American experiment – and the non-religious, non-ethnic basis for American national identity – is highly unnatural and unusual from the rest of the world’s perspective.

    So again, we have to be careful exactly what we are preaching to other countries.

    And we have to admit the shortcomings of our solution.

  13. Bezuhov Says:

    “Shorter Me: Your complaint ain’t with me, what you are doing is telling your neo-neo-neo-neo con hostess she has bad taste in how she chose to configure her blog on blogger.”

    I’ve met few with better. Your’s, however, could evidently bear refinement.

  14. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    Just out of curiosity, what exactly would you do if Neo disabled anonymous posting? I can think of three possible responses (although there could be others than I’m not thinking of): start posting using some moniker (or perhaps many), go away and not post here anymore, or send a letter of complaint to Neo.

  15. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    Shorter you: Wahhh! I have to find some reason to discount you, so I am going to complain about which radio box you chose.

    Brilliant! That’s definitely going in my “book”. I’d quote you personally, but, well, I have no means to identify you.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Your refusal to sign your pseudo name, in order for your comments to be tracked consistently throughout space and time, is a propaganda hit and run tactic used to disorientate and confuse the target. It is never part of an honest speech.

    Shorter you: Wahhh! I have to find some reason to discount you, so I am going to complain about which radio box you chose.

    Shorter Me: Your complaint ain’t with me, what you are doing is telling your neo-neo-neo-neo con hostess she has bad taste in how she chose to configure her blog on blogger.

  17. Bezuhov Says:

    “the priest/rabbi/holy man was the priest/mayor/police/judge/jury/executioner in most villages worldwide.”

    This is just untrue. Although the “Big Man” and the shaman were often enough in cahoots, they were just as often rivals, and what they almost never were is the same guy, hence the uniqueness of Melchizedek.

    The very first Israelite king (Saul) was stripped of his kingship for encroaching on Samuel’s priestly duties. Note that Samuel, much to his evident chagrin, never before or after this episode was considered himself for kingly duties. To be fair, what Samuel wished for, as does I believe our president, was that God would be looked toward by all people for guidance, not priests or kings.

    This doesn’t even get into the question of what happens after man starts congregating in larger collections than villages.

    “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

    - Pope

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    When people say “name” on the internet, they mean any chosen name, not your real name specifically.

    Your refusal to sign your pseudo name, in order for your comments to be tracked consistently throughout space and time, is a propaganda hit and run tactic used to disorientate and confuse the target. It is never part of an honest speech.

    In the world of shadowry lies and falsehoods, not having any name is a protection from your opponents. It is the complete reverse of the public discourse the Founding Fathers sought to promote.

    Somebody tried to mislead the audience about the Founding Fathers in this thread, concerning religion. People have got to stop believing the Democratic propaganda, instituted by the Soviets when they sought to outlaw religion and institute atheism, a particular brand of religion itself. The Soviets had a lot of propaganda projects, separation of church and state was just one of them, one of the more easily transparent attempts in the recent decades.

    I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. 9

    That was written by Thomas Jefferson.

    To learn more about separation of religion and state, keep reading.

    In 1947, in the case Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.

    The election of Jefferson-America’s first Anti-Federalist President-elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly Anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.

    Consequently, now having a President who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise on October 7, 1801, telling him:

    What Jefferson wrote, was in response to the praise he received from a bunch of religious people.

    Many Republicans don’t understand the power of propaganda, because they don’t understand what it is or how it is used. Combined with the civilian ignorance of military tactics and strategy, Republicans are at a rather severe disadvantage in war and propaganda. Because many active military career professionals are Republicans, this prevents the Republicans from self-destruction out of ignorance.

    For example, one use to which propaganda can be used is to convince your opponent, that what you say is the truth. That may be obvious, but let’s look at the details.

    When a Democrat says “separation of church and state”, you automatically are encouraged by personal beliefs to say you agree. Since you tend to think that this was part of the Constitution, and you believe that the Constitution is a good thing and should be followed.

    However, the original application of separation of church and state was in fact an attempt to prevent the government from punishing people, either legally or through fines or through arrests or through other means, for their religious conscience. The free exercise of personal conscience, the right to believe what you want to believe, so long as it does not harm another through violence, is a fundamental human right as well as an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

    It is very hard to distinguish separation of church and state, as the Democrats use it, and separation of church and state as Jefferson and Judges in the past have used it.

    Do we have a separation of church and state here thanks to the church or thanks to our founders and our constitution?

    Since our founders believed in freedom of religion, the church, and their own belief in God, what I can say is that people like you never did contribute to separation of church and state.

    The whole attempt to remove individual liberties from Americans, rests upon the propaganda art, the ability to convince your opponent that dark is light and that light is dark. In this case, the objective is the word “church”. Because atheism, the religion of the Soviets, is not defined by the vernacular as a church, they easily get away with excluding atheism from the public discourse.

    This converts an attempt by the Founding Fathers to protect the free exercise of religion from government induced punishments (punishments that are occuring now), into an attempt to impose atheism upon the American people through the outright systemic elimination of Christianity and any other organized religion.

    The religious people back in Jefferson’s time realized the problem. The problem was that freedom of religion was not specific. It is too easy to substitute religion for church, and atheism for state. Too easy.

    The historical irony is pretty apparent. The Founding Fathers sought to build a wall between state and religion, in order to protect religious people from the state wielded power. Such as judges, for example.

    What is going on in Afghanistan is the religious militias with mob power and militia power, trying to assault the secular government. Therefore to confuse our separation of church and state with what should be done in Afghanistan, is asymptomatic of the Democratic party.

    In America, the goal should be to have more religion and free expression. As with free speech, the answer to bad speech is more speech. The answer to religion should not be government restrictions and punishments and force.

    The goal in Afghanistan should be to protect people from religion, by systematically breaking the military power of the clerics as you would break a mob or the KKK open.

    The problem with the Democrats is that they are incompetent. The only multi-culture that they understand is sexual culture, not foreign cultures. Therefore they would implement what they think would work in America, restrictions on religion, to what they think would work in Afghanistan, freedom of religion.

    Because the Democrats do not understand the Constitution or the Founding Father’s principles and goals, the Democrats will misapply the solution to both our own country as well as to other country’s that need the vision of our Founding Fathers.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Hey so that’s real cool, so then I know you respect anonymity and understand the why and wherefore of it all, so why would you make such a patently disingenuous bogus argument such as:

    “I love these folks who don’t have the guts to sign their names to their opinions. so covincing?”

    So now I undertstand that you of all people don’t need that history lesson, which means that you chose your ad hominem attack on anonymity on purpose. Why use ad hominems when you apparently feel your logical connected statements as backed up by the facts are sufficient?

    Sigh. I thought this was an honest conversation.

  20. Andrew Zalotocky Says:

    We need to clarify what “tolerance” really means. The PC worship of “tolerance” as an absolute good is clearly flawed, because as Neo points out it leads to a paradox: if tolerance is always good, it must be good to tolerate intolerance, so the opposite of good is also good. Tolerance must therefore have limits, so nobody can claim an unlimited right to be tolerated, and nobody can have an obligation to extend unlimited tolerance to others.

    Tolerance must also be mutual, because otherwise it is indistinguishable from one person or group submitting to the demands of another. Toleration implies something that is done by choice, and accepting something because you are forced to is better described as “surrender”.

    It follows that tolerance can best be described as a contract between the members of a society, in which each person accepts that his or her fellow citizens have certain freedoms on the condition that he or she has them as well. It is an example of enlightened self-interest, in which citizens uphold each other’s rights because those rights also protect them.

    Therefore tolerance is something that is created by civil society, not something that can be imposed by government. Governments may pass laws to protect minorities or legalise unpopular practices, but this does not in itself change minds.

    So on what basis can Westerners argue that Afghanistan should adopt our ideas of tolerance, such as freedom of religion? The argument can be made on the grounds of empirical evidence, self-interest or universal values. The empirical argument is that the freedoms of Western society, such as freedom of speech and free intellectual inquiry, have been crucial to its success. Those who adopt the same methods will obtain the same beneficial results.

    The argument from self-interest has two parts. One is that conforming to – indeed, tolerating – at least some of the human rights concepts of the Western world will make it easier for Afghanistan to build political and economic relationships with it. The second and more powerful argument is that the mechanisms of civil society, such as the informal contract of tolerance, provide a way to manage internal conflicts without resorting to violence. The value of this to a nation like Afghanistan is obvious, but to work it must also address religious issues that can be exploited by the Islamists to stir up hatred. Part of that is demonstrating that the world will not end if people like Abdul Rahman are allowed freedom of conscience. Another part is for people to learn that “tolerate” does not mean “like” or “agree with”.

    Finally, there is the argument that certain rights are inherent to all human beings, and that this applies to people of all religions and nationalities. These beliefs are so fundamental to Western society that we should consider ourselves obliged to make that argument, as often and as loudly as possible.

  21. Vanderleun Says:

    HERE, I’ll give you a few things to read from EFF:

    Archives

    But you come back real soon now, y’here.

  22. Vanderleun Says:

    Ah, what a stunning lesson. Please trot out some more canned history. I love it when people try to teach me something about online behavior by quoting large chunks of text from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), it makes me remember that I was employee number three of the EFF when it was founded.

    Come to think of it, that does cause me to ponder my sins.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    One wonders how the neo-neocon can tolerate people like Vanderleun who so clearly hate America. (He actually does not have the foggiest understanding of American History.)

    Many people don’t want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. They may be concerned about political or economic retribution, harassment, or even threats to their lives. Whistleblowers report news that companies and governments would prefer to suppress; human rights workers struggle against repressive governments; parents try to create a safe way for children to explore; victims of domestic violence attempt to rebuild their lives where abusers cannot follow.

    Instead of using their true names to communicate, these people choose to speak using pseudonyms (assumed names) or anonymously (no name at all). For these individuals and the organizations that support them, secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives.

    Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

    Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

    The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym “Publius,” and “the Federal Farmer” spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendmen

    I will leave Van to ponder his own sins of omission vs. sins of commission and how all of this might have been averted with a human rights based foreign policy.

  24. Vanderleun Says:

    Yet another anonymous coward proving that the ability to make “meaningful moral distinctions” (let’s stress “meaningful” ) is simply beyond the scope of many minds blinded by Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    I have to say, anonymous, that your lack of an ability to make “meaningful” moral distinctions is full matched by your lack of a “sense of proportion.”

    By any calculus applied to the recent history of Iraq we have saved at least 100,000 iraqis that would have gone into the mass graves via paper shredders or other inventive Hussain family techniques. And that is only to date. The positive side of the ledger increases with every passing day.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Separation of church and state would be one answer, but in fact that’s exactly what isn’t happening with Islam, and there’s no indication it’s happening any time soon.

    Creationism in schools.

    Nope, doesn’t look like it’s happening here either.

    Do you find it odd that you think that Islam should suggest separation of church and state on its own?

    Do we have a separation of church and state here thanks to the church or thanks to our founders and our constitution?

    While I am no expert on Turkey, having visited there too briefly only once, I believe they consider themselves an Islamic state with a strong separation of church (mosque) and state. Was it Islam or Kemal Ataturk?

    Yes, we burned witches hundreds and thousands of years ago. That was in paleo-America and could just never happen here. Unless your name is Matthew Shepard. Or you are a member of Fred Phelps’ Church. Couldn’t happen anywhere else in America, we are so evolved.

    We would never do something intolerant and morally reprehensible to others. Say, like invade a country causing the deaths of thousands to avenge a father or secure an oil supply.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Does Vega liking the same book as Steve, mean something cosmic? You tell me.

    Does anyone really think that 21st Century American values and laws can be transplanted anywhere, easily, or, at all?

    It’s called social engineering, steve. And as with any engineering, things can be accomplished if the engineers are experienced and intelligent enough.

    not if we believe in the sovereignty of their democratically elected constitutional government.

    It’s a good thing that I don’t believe in the sovereignty of any government that can’t back up their politics with the appropriate firepower. This makes my ethics concerning human rights, a lot more streamlined than someone talking about foreign sovereignty.

    But we might rethink our close alliance with them, and the aid we provide. As our alliance with India matures, the one with Afghanistan will be of lesser importance, and our strategic behavior could line up more firmly with our principles.

    Alliances are not made by whim, or based upon who you like or don’t like. This ain’t office politics, this ain’t High School popularity contests, and it sure as heck ain’t American Idol.

    Steve: More importantly, the American people are not interested in war, and are not being galvanized, mobilized, or asked to sacrifice for any war. Who’s fault is that?

    Since you’re not galvanizing, mobilizing, or asking for sacrifice from your compatriots, then it is ostensibly your fault, steve.

    “Let me remind everyone: in my lifetime we were trying to get to a place where the vote was assured… for American blacks in the South,” she said.

    She quotes the correct example, but concludes the wrong action. There’s a story about blacks for the last 50 years. Because of blacks fighting in WWII in the Tuskegee Air Squadron, the military desegragated the military, Truman Executive, 15 years before the civilian desegregation.

    Wars are the best way to break down societal barriers. But there’s a danger. If you lose the war, i.e. Afghanistan vs Taliban, then you are going to lose all the societal progress you’ve made.

    And winning the war in Afghanistan might defeat Shariah law in the military, but it is not going to affect the civilian population. See, it doesn’t matter if the military is efficient and secular in afghanistan, if the civilian government is a Shariah one. It would defeat the whole point.

    What we should do is stipulate the absolute separation of church and state, to create that institution in Afghanistan as we did in Japan when we stipulated the peace clause. But Secretary Rice and President Bush will do not do so, because of this fake sovereignty they keep talking about.

    We can’t sell this Constitutional ammendment ourselves, we have to get Karzai to do it. For Karzai to do this, we have to give him some independent power. A power that he can show to his people, that is independent of the US.

    There’s two social engineering solutions. One applies to a war time scenario. The other applies to a peace time scenario. The War time scenario includes demonstrations of state powers, such as the power to execute, arrest, and otherwise disable the Islamic militias and clerics from obtaining and using government power. The peace time scenario takes much longer, but is more stable and has a higher chance of success in the long run. The peace time scenario includes Constitutional Ammendment, and basically mirrors the progress of Japan.

    I have to remind Secretary Rice, that in her lifetime the United States of America had a cental government, with a loyal military, free from foreign invasions and internal rebellions. Afghanistan is not the same situation, Secretary Rice’s “peace time” scenario will not work.

    What is good for Afghanistan is not good for Afghanistan, if at the same time it is bad for the United States. We don’t want Afghanistan to turn into Pakistan, where the leader is on our side but has little to no power in his actual military and civilian populace. The optimum result is a strong central Afghanistani government, like the federalized version of America, along with an efficient, powerful, and loyal Afghanistani military plus the populous support of the Afghanistani Presidency and the people.

    That would be the optimum goal. If you get 2/3, we would still be allright.

    Currently, Afghanistan is in the stoneage and the only thing they respect is force. The average Afghanistani just wants to live in peace, but the fact is that the people with military force don’t want to live in peace. They are not used to it. The various factions, like the Taliban, Northern Alliance, and the clerics need to understand that the United States will prevent any one of them from implementing policies negative to human rights and American interests.

    Security must be the priority, otherwise we will never get to that optimum goal. Security means protecting people like Rahman, and it also means killing people who threaten to tear peaceful people apart in the streets. We have to get rid of the gangs, the criminal networks, and the gun toting militias. If we can’t get rid of them, then we intimidate them into either cooperating with us or not interfering. What we shouldn’t do, is to reduce our ally’s credentials by putting international pressure on Karzai.

    As I said before, nobody likes the topdog, the United States of America, and it doesn’t matter if we apply our power in words or in executions, people will still be pissed off. Because killing the enemy is a good deterence, and words are not, we get more benefit from getting rid of the enemy than talking about the enemy in the end. The price is the same.

    Secretary Rice is infringing upon Afghanistan’s sovereignty just by the fact that we have military forces in Afghanistan, and the Afghanistanis fear that we will pull out if they don’t as we want. Rice can’t change the reality on the ground, but what she can do is improve the reality for our allies and make hell for our enemies and the enemies of our allies.

    Before we force the concept of a secular civil society on our ‘inferiors’ – maybe we should make a good, honest reckoning of its shortcomings – particularly in the areas of morality and ethics.

    When the only things Afghanistan has to worry about is the government removing pictures of Allah and the 10 Commandments, then you can talk about America not being worthy to guid Afghanistan along. Afghanistan does not have the same problems as decadent America. Their problem is chaos, our problem is order and stagnancy. Those are complete opposites. they would benefit from our order, and we would benefit from their chaos.

    Anyone that loses to us militarily is our inferiors, they know it and people like me know it. THe only people that perhaps doubt it, are those people that think we get to “decide”. We don’t get to decide if our nation is superior or inferior to another nation, those things are set by inescapable physics. For example, the more people your nation has, the more baseline economic growth and military power. It does not guarantee it, but a bigger nation is of course more powerful at a baseline, than a smaller nation.

    If we had started and maintained a foreign policy where human rights were considered more important than profit, and if we had gone into Afghanistan and stayed in Afghanistan and not been diverted into Iraq, there would probably have been no Abdul Rahman case to begin with.

    This is the fake liberal “I get to decide what happens” logic that a lot of people have. No, you don’t get to decide.

    grackle: Thanks for the polite disagreement. If an American city gets nuked we will invade whatever country the attackers are from.

    You’re going to invade 50 countries? Which is where the attackers came from. Assuming you caught the attackers in the first place.

    I don’t think it is a good idea to occupy Germany and Japan and remain on a war footing with Japan and Germany. It tends to reduce peace.

  27. Dr Victorino de la Vega Says:

    Frankly, with all due respects to monotheistic theologians of all stripes and colors, there isn’t such as thing as “The Bible”:
    What you have are two radically different sets of books: on the one hand, there’s the Hellenistic and relatively secular “New Testament” which makes up less than 5% of the “Bible”…

    As for the bulk of Biblical writings = the remaining 95% a.k.a. the “Jewish Scriptures” or the Tanakh, well they’re very similar to the Koranic rigorism of Medina or to the words of leading “mainline” Protestant theologians such as John Calvin in their puritan approach to politics and society.

    Salomon, David & Co. were both Kings AND Prophets, inspiring generations of Hebrew and Arab theocratic “holy warriors”, and the 17th century Protestant bigots of Switzerland and New England were literally obsessed with the imperatives “God’s Law”- they even burned “witches” and other straying heretics!

    So it’s not like OBL and his friends invented some kind of “new” religious paradigm…

    As for the ancient law commanding the automatic execution of apostates, last time I checked this was a Hebrew invention: Israel’s Sicaris even executed observant Jews for being “westernized”!

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    Separation of church and state would be one answer, but in fact that’s exactly what isn’t happening with Islam, and there’s no indication it’s happening any time soon.

    But it wouldn’t be the only answer; another would be the reform of Islam itself, and the abolishment of these types of harsh punishments (and actual decriminalization) of apostasy, for example, as well as an abandonment of the idea that Islam must take over the world. I agree with vanderleun that a transformation into this “live and let live” attitude isn’t something on the horizon; I differ only in that I still think “the jury is out” on whether it’s possible.

    Unfortunately, I also fear that such a distinction may end up being moot, because we may run out of time while that jury is deliberating. If Iran goes nuclear, for example, we have probably run out of time.

    Also, to grackle: Sirhan Sirhan, Robert Kennedy’s assassin, was a Christian Palestinian, not a Moslem.

    To ben-david: anyone who fails to see the difference between suttee and circumcision has lost all ability to make meaningful moral distinctions. But that seems to be an increasingly common problem these days.

  29. Steve Says:

    gcoth: “Any nation can only do what it is politically possible to do.”

    Precisely. Too often people post wish fulfillment without a mind to the possibility.

    grackle: Thanks for the polite disagreement. If an American city gets nuked we will invade whatever country the attackers are from. However, if we are really going to take control of the Muslim nations we need to be on a national war footing, and we have to believe that the death and destruction we will dish out is justified for the sake of our own survival. As a nation, we are nowhere near that point.

    pierre: I wasn’t speaking of prophets, I was thinking of the fact that historically government in all aspects was sanctified by religion (cf. Ancient Egypt), involved minute control over every aspect of human life by religious injunction (Torah, the Laws of Vishnu), and the fact that, until rather recently in historical time, the priest/rabbi/holy man was the priest/mayor/police/judge/jury/executioner in most villages worldwide.

    Ben-David: This is exactly what I was getting at when I said that “no tolerance to intolerance” leads very easily into intolerance. The separation of Church and State and the “privatization” of religion means, in many cases, that the practice of one’s religion may not have any relationship to the outside world. And that is nonsense. Secular humanism is also a religion, I might add, and not a particularly good one, either. I won’t post this graf three times. ;-)

    (I should add as a footnote to my Jewish readers that in referencing the Torah I have in mind just the Mosaic writings and in particular the books of laws therein, and I should add that I know that these — to non-believers — eye-glazing lists of rules and regulations have been the subject of much poetic and philosphical commentary, which is quite engaging. But that’s not what I am getting at.)

  30. Vanderleun Says:

    No my dear “anonymous” (I love these folks who don’t have the guts to sign their names to their opinions. so covincing.) … No, the problem is not “religious fanaticism.” The problem is “religious fanaticism” that flys airplanes into buildings, that executes apostates, that does all manner of evil acts in the service of their religion.

    You obviously live somewhere outside of time so I’ll try to pull you back into the present. How long since “we” burnt witches and stoned people? I’d say that can be measured in centuries. (Trans: A century is 100 orbits of the earth about the sun.)

    Our “conservative, circumcized, Jew that keeps kashrut” also believes, “Her complaint about how nasty sharia law is doesn’t sound too terribly different to my ears about what fundamentalists here in the United States would do to gays if they had a chance.”

    This is conflated nonsense, pure and simple. For all the demonization of “fundamentalists” whipped out by the apologists for Islam, I don’t think reasonable people with a clear view of the social landscape could possibly conclude that fundamentalists would, absent the “chance,” start to behead gays in public squares.

    I keep hearing about all these potential “fundamentalist” evils and yet I never see even a whiff of them in the real world.

    Alas, this projection of the very visible, continuous, and rising acts of violence on a small and global scale of Islamic believers onto American fundamentalists is just pap. It is a handy means of displacing very real fears of a proven malevolent relgious fanaticism onto a group that is not to be feared at all.

    To swan about proclaiming “separation of church and state is the answer,” means nothing when you are dealing with a situation in which the churchs IS the state. And that is the state of ISLAM, a nation that exists nowhere and everywhere since it does not exist as land but as a compulsive set of beliefs that require submission, silence and obedience.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    As a conservative, circumcized, Jew that keeps kashrut I find it appalling that Scandinavian countries would outlaw kosher slaughter, yet still permit in any manner circumcision. Total reversal of logic.

    That said, I think the neo-neo con is being old fashioned naive, the same naivete that has gotten her into her many messes, including her current affair with neoconservatism.

    If we had started and maintained a foreign policy where human rights were considered more important than profit, and if we had gone into Afghanistan and stayed in Afghanistan and not been diverted into Iraq, there would probably have been no Abdul Rahman case to begin with.

    Her complaint about how nasty sharia law is doesn’t sound too terribly different to my ears about what fundamentalists here in the United States would do to gays if they had a chance.

    How long ago was it that we were burning witches? Or stoning people?

    The problem is not Islam itself. The problem is religious fanaticism.

    The solution is the separation of church and state.

    Enjoy your neo-neo-neo-neo conness, until something else cons you into trying that on for size.

  32. Goesh Says:

    -If you won’t let me bomb their mosques, at least let me produce renewable, cheap, environmentally friendly green fuel and shrivel their money tree. Something has to happen, one way or another.

  33. Tom Grey Says:

    Wonderful post Neo, not only what I was thinking over the weekend, but much, much better.
    (Laurie Anderson; what heaven is like).

    Islamic countries, like Saudi Arabia, are protected by UN type agreements respecting “national sovereignty.” If Islamofascists get and use a nuke, look for Saudi Arabia, and other oil-rich countries which do NOT allow Human Rights like freedom of religion, to be taken over in the name of Human Rights — because it’s time that Human Rights are seen as more universal, and more important, than national sovereignty.

    Let Mecca and Medina remain Islamic, non-Human Rights cities. Push to exile all Islamic imams from democracies into one of those two cities, if such imam claims his view of the Koran requires punishments against Human Rights. But the oil-rich Democratic Arabia would be liberated from sharia.

    Perhaps by US trained and outfitted Indian fighters. By the hundreds of thousands.
    With their wives.
    Becoming new, dual, voting citizens of Democratic Arabia — and ending oil-subsidies to non-human rights supporting organizations.

  34. Ben-David Says:

    Please excuse the multiple posts.

  35. Ben-David Says:

    Coming at this from the perspective of an Orthodox Jew… yes I have benefitted from the separation of Church and State.

    But that same formulation – first positing a universal enlightenment morality, now sliding into relativistic amorality – has enabled the Scandinavian countries to ban outright kosher slaughter of cattle, and to severely restrict circumcision.

    (Not sure if they have had the temerity to extend/maintain this with their Muslims, but) For a while now Jewish parents have had to get a special letter allowing them to circumcise their sons. Otherwise they can be prosecuted for child abuse, circumcision having no secular rationale.

    There are groups in America seeking the same legislation. I doubt any of them would see any distinction between circumcision and the old Indian suttee practise – nor could I, as a Jew, offer any rational basis for upholding the covenant of Abraham – nor should I: it is for me an article of faith, an obligation not dependant on human reason.

    So while we’re all tut-tutting medieval fundamentalist backwardness, a part of me is holding back: because I have already seen how an (equally fundamentalist and militant!) application of rational secularism can easily spill over into actively oppressive, anti-religious policy.

    Before we force the concept of a secular civil society on our ‘inferiors’ – maybe we should make a good, honest reckoning of its shortcomings – particularly in the areas of morality and ethics.

  36. Ben-David Says:

    Coming at this from the perspective of an Orthodox Jew… yes I have benefitted from the separation of Church and State.

    But that same formulation – first positing a universal enlightenment morality, now sliding into relativistic amorality – has enabled the Scandinavian countries to ban outright kosher slaughter of cattle, and to severely restrict circumcision.

    (Not sure if they have had the temerity to extend/maintain this with their Muslims, but) For a while now Jewish parents have had to get a special letter allowing them to circumcise their sons. Otherwise they can be prosecuted for child abuse, circumcision having no secular rationale.

    There are groups in America seeking the same legislation. I doubt any of them would see any distinction between circumcision and the old Indian suttee practise – nor could I, as a Jew, offer any rational basis for upholding the covenant of Abraham – nor should I: it is for me an article of faith, an obligation not dependant on human reason.

    So while we’re all tut-tutting medieval fundamentalist backwardness, a part of me is holding back: because I have already seen how an (equally fundamentalist and militant!) application of rational secularism can easily spill over into actively oppressive, anti-religious policy.

    Before we force the concept of a secular civil society on our ‘inferiors’ – maybe we should make a good, honest reckoning of its shortcomings – particularly in the areas of morality and ethics.

  37. Ben- Says:

    Coming at this from the perspective of an Orthodox Jew… yes I have benefitted from the separation of Church and State.

    But that same formulation – first positing a universal enlightenment morality, now sliding into relativistic amorality – has enabled the Scandinavian countries to ban outright kosher slaughter of cattle, and to severely restrict circumcision.

    (Not sure if they have had the temerity to extend/maintain this with their Muslims, but) For a while now Jewish parents have had to get a special letter allowing them to circumcise their sons. Otherwise they can be prosecuted for child abuse, circumcision having no secular rationale.

    There are groups in America seeking the same legislation. I doubt any of them would see any distinction between circumcision and the old Indian suttee practise – nor could I, as a Jew, offer any rational basis for upholding the covenant of Abraham – nor should I: it is for me an article of faith, an obligation not dependant on human reason.

    So while we’re all tut-tutting medieval fundamentalist backwardness, a part of me is holding back: because I have already seen how an (equally fundamentalist and militant!) application of rational secularism can easily spill over into actively oppressive, anti-religious policy.

    Before we force the concept of a secular civil society on our ‘inferiors’ – maybe we should make a good, honest reckoning of its shortcomings – particularly in the areas of morality and ethics.

  38. goesh Says:

    The difference is like applying either chemo or radiation therapy to inoperable, terminal cancer – either way works just fine.

  39. Huan Says:

    Under Sharia law, does apostasy mandate death, or is punishable by death?

    You see the difference?

  40. goesh Says:

    Cannibalsim. That’s what came to mind upon reading this Post. “We will tear him to pieces” said one Afghani. Hey! I belive you – you don’t have to convince me. You are like cannibals sitting down to your feast. I know you will never wonder if there is anything else on the menu other than human flesh. You are quite safe in your beliefs and ‘feasting’ – I and my kind are prevented from bombing your mosques where you congregate for your ‘feasts’ – we are not allowed to drop napalm on the mahdrass where your son learns cannabalism. Enjoy!

  41. Bezuhov Says:

    WASHINGTON (CNN) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied Sunday that the threatened execution of an Afghan man for converting to Christianity highlights a lack of true democracy in a nation the Bush administration points to as as a democratic success.

    In an interview with CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” Rice rejected suggestions that Islamic law in Afghanistan and Iraq — two nations the administration argues are signs Bush foreign policy is working — could prevent free societies from taking hold.

    “These are evolutionary democracies, they’re democracies in transition,” she said, adding that the United States should be “humble” because of its own history of denying freedoms to its citizens.

    “Let me remind everyone: in my lifetime we were trying to get to a place where the vote was assured… for American blacks in the South,” she said.

  42. Bezuhov Says:

    Steve, your assurance that Western Religion is now safely private and that this would count as unqualified progress wer it true is misplaced. I believe your error arises from equating public and state.

    You also (wildly) overstate the political power enjoyed by biblical priests and prophets.

  43. Bezuhov Says:

    “”Notes from Underground” is THE book: it covers all the issues and beyond!”

    Well, I will admit that in the Underground Man Dostoyevsky captured the character we see here reprised in Dr. de la Vega’s deranged musings particular poignantly.

  44. grackle Says:

    Steve: Anyone who broaches the idea of exterminating Islam over the unjust death of one Christian is calling for a religious war.

    I’m not calling for the West to respond in kind, at least not yet, but there is already a religious war going on that’s world wide in scope. All the terrorists, beginning with bin Laden on down to Palestinian suicide bombers, cite religious justification.

    Let’s check off some events of recent years: Robert Kennedy assassinated, US embassy staff held hostage, Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon bombed, USS Cole bombed, embassies in Tanzania & Kenya bombed, the first unsuccessful attempt at the WTC, Rangers are ambushed in Mogadishu, 9/11. Among our allies, Israel is regularly bombed; the British had the London bombings, Spain their national elections-affecting train bombings, Thailand has seen terrorism, as has Bali, Egypt & Saudi Arabia have both suffered recent acts of terrorism. There are probably some that I’m overlooking. Throw in the cartoon riots & the French riots. One must eventually realize that all these events have just one thing in common.

    Steve: I’m not particularly interested in seeing a lot of people getting killed.

    Me neither, but I believe an isolationist policy guarantees a great number of deaths. Steve, what do you think an American President will do if there is a large scale act of terror in the US? Do you think that if the terrorists would manage to send an American city up in smoke that a POTUS would do nothing but try more diplomacy?

    Steve: More importantly, the American people are not interested in war, and are not being galvanized, mobilized, or asked to sacrifice for any war. Who’s fault is that?

    Oh I think they may be somewhat interested. For instance, the American people don’t seem to be ready yet to leave Iraq to the dogs. I think many people may realize that if the US leaves prematurely that the US may end up having to go back into Iraq in a couple of years. And if a large scale attack in the US ever succeeds I think you will see an overwhelming interest in war.

  45. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    I believe the Abdul Rahman case is a historic watershed event. What few media are commenting on is that this segment of Sharia Law was defeated in Afghanistan!! Defeated!!!! Sure it is an “incremental” defeat – but that is FAR BETTER than an incremental victory for Sharis. All leftist fans of “slippery slope” doctrine can see where this defeat will lead: slowly, inexorably towards liberalization of Afghan law. The Abdul Rahman case is a watershed. It will go down in history. World history-wise, Rahman’s dismissal will be bigger, and more important, than Brown vs. the Board of Education.

    Maybe. Or maybe you underestimate the cunning of the judges. Why sentence him to death and possibly get foreign powers involved when you can release him and let the mobs deal the sentence instead?

  46. gcotharn Says:

    I like this post very much. Any nation can only do what it is politically possible to do. That is not to say a nation should not stretch itself as much as possible. However, just as the foundation of our nation required the 3/5′s compromise, and just as Lincoln was politically forced to tiptoe around the slavery issue for many years, so any nation can only do what can be done.

    I believe the Abdul Rahman case is a historic watershed event. What few media are commenting on is that this segment of Sharia Law was defeated in Afghanistan!! Defeated!!!! Sure it is an “incremental” defeat – but that is FAR BETTER than an incremental victory for Sharis. All leftist fans of “slippery slope” doctrine can see where this defeat will lead: slowly, inexorably towards liberalization of Afghan law. The Abdul Rahman case is a watershed. It will go down in history. World history-wise, Rahman’s dismissal will be bigger, and more important, than Brown vs. the Board of Education. Children will be forced to memorize it for hundreds of years, imo. That is not to say the future will not be rocky, or that Karzai might not yet suffer consequences, or that future blood will not flow over this very issue. However, as neo points out, in her own fashion: the ball is rolling. Whatever atrocities are yet to come, civilization is victorious in this battle! Light the cigars!

    I am with Vanderluen and David Warren: Islam is not compatible with co-existing with other religions. IS NOT. PERIOD. We should be clear about what we are looking for: we are not looking for moderate Muslims. We are looking for Muslims willing to reform the religion. Maybe it’s not politically or strategically possible for Washington to be that frank. But it’s possible for the rest of us.

    “the post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam”
    I agree. It is not Christianity which will save the West – if we are to be saved. It is, rather, confidence in Western values. It just so happens that the largest portion of persons who display confidence in Western values are Christian. This largest group is joined Jews and non-religious Westerners who also have self confidence in Western values.

    The remainder of the West – the “Post Christian West” Warren speaks of, don’t even have the confidence to stand up for societal self-defense – much less Western values in general. “Out of their depth” is a kind description.

    I believe the war between Sharia and the West will be decided in the West. The real enemy is the “Post Christian West”, which is destroying Western values through a lack of confidence in those values, and through failing to vigorously defend those values. If the “Post Christian West” can be subdued, and Western values can win the day in the West, then Western values will also win the day against Sharia. I am confident that healthy and vigorous Western values can defeat Sharia. I am not so confident the Post Christian West can be subdued in a way which will allow Western values to be healthy and vigorous enough for the fight.

  47. Vanderleun Says:

    I have to say that the conclusion reached, “The Jury is still out…” doesn’t seem to follow from what comes before.

    I don’t think that the jury is out at all. I think the verdict is in, and the verdict is “It can’t.” The question which our policy seeks to answer is “What to do about this antedeluvian set of beliefs that is actively and persistently hostile to the West and growing more so.”

    I think we all like to feel “The jury is out” because the actual verdict compels us towards actions we abhor. It also places us in a world that we are, quite frankly, not yet ready to inhabit. And rightly so since the last time we inhabited that world was the era called World War II and a similar passage would not be good for our present “Happy World.”

    But in a wider sense, it really doesn’t matter whether our jury is in or out. Our jury is not the determining factor. Islam’s jury is in and has been for quite some time and its verdict is dire and irreversible.

    We like to imagine, hope, that there is some sort of self-righting mechanism that can steer Islam back onto a track where it can learn to “play well with others,” but there is no such mechanism present on the planet at this time.

    Islam, as an expansionist and fascist force, has been successfully dealt with before in history, but only through the use of overwhelming and devastating force. It will be that way again at some point in the not too distant future. This date probably is being determined for us by Iran’s nuclear weapons program, or some as yet unrevealed plan of attack on a major city in the United States.

    As David Warren, who growing up within an Islamic culture, has a greater insight into the Islamic mind that most westerners, wrote last week at Real Clear Politics:

    Each, [of Bush's advisors] in a different way, assured him that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.

    The question, “But what if they are not?” was never seriously raised, because it could not be raised behind the mud curtain of political correctness that has descended over the Western academy and intelligentsia. The idea that others see the world in a way that is not only incompatible with, but utterly opposed to, the way we see it, is the thorn ever-present in the rose bushes of multiculturalism. “Ideas have consequences”, and the idea that Islam imagines itself in a fundamental, physical conflict with everything outside of itself, is an idea with which people in the contemporary West are morally and intellectually incapable of coming to terms. Hence our continuing surprise at everything from bar-bombings in Bali, to riots in France, to the Danish cartoon apoplexy.

    My own views on the issue have been aloof. More precisely, they have been infected with cowardice. I am so “post-modern” myself that I, too, find it almost impossible to think through the corollaries from our world’s hardest fact. And that fact is: the post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam.”

    That last statement resonates deeply with me. “The post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam.” Among other things it makes me see that the accusing tones of those that de la vega represents are just idle whisps of wind.

    They think that the current war in Iraq is “bad trouble.” It’s not. But there is bad trouble coming, the best our policies can do right now is to delay it and, maybe, cull the militant Islamic soldiers a bit while it does so.

  48. dicentra Says:

    I’ve been thinking about the conditions in the West that made freedom of religion such an important tenet, and why such freedom might not be appealing to Muslims.

    By the time the U.S. had its beginnings, Christianity had gone through a violent splintering into many sects, and there had been many examples of oppression of one sect or other. Many of the European immigrants to the Americas were looking for a place to practice their religion in peace. By the time of the Revolution, there were already many different varieties of Christianity being practiced. There was no huge majority of any one sect, and no one wanted to give up their particular beliefs. Freedom of Religion only made sense.

    But now more that 200 years later, freedom of religion in the US has necessarily permitted freedom to be non-religious. The fruits of secularism–promiscuity, impiety, etc.–don’t appeal to most Muslims. Our insistence on freedom of religion probably seems like an insistence that they take the same cultural path that we have, complete with the less-savory elements.

    Frankly, I don’t blame them for being suspicious. Maybe if we had made such an appeal back in the 19th century, when we didn’t appear as immoral to them, our advice might not seem to carry so many unhappy implications for their society.

    (Of course, in the 19th century, they were even more backwards than they are now.)

    I don’t know how this will play out. I would love to see them be tolerant of conversions. I just understand their reluctance.

  49. Tired Immigrant Says:

    The way for the US to deal with cases like Rahman’s is to take a leaf out of the history of British rule in India. Then too, cultures were different; only, the good guys weren’t shy of saying they were right.

    Check this out, it’s a funny story.
    http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2006/03/abdul-rahman.html

  50. Baron Bodissey Says:

    As for Mr. Rahman’s release — notice that his case is being referred back to the prosecutor for “further investigation”. He’s by no means out of the woods yet.

    And the Afghanis are working on an alternate course of action, i.e. declaring him insane.

    If he stays in Afghanistan — and he seems to intend to — he’s in for touble eventually.

  51. Baron Bodissey Says:

    I have to agree with Steve — if the Afghanis want to execute the poor man, we have no business trying to stop them, not if we believe in the sovereignty of their democratically elected constitutional government.

    But we might rethink our close alliance with them, and the aid we provide. As our alliance with India matures, the one with Afghanistan will be of lesser importance, and our strategic behavior could line up more firmly with our principles.

  52. Dr Victorino de la Vega Says:

    “By opposing Sharia does the West create Sharia, as Doc Vic suggests? It’s parallel anti-warrior meme is: By opposing terrorism the West creates terrorism”

    It’s not really “parallel” my dear Grackle

    As I said earlier, in Iraq as in the West Bank the Neocon Neros of Washington deliberately attacked (relatively) secular and Westernized regimes: the much maligned PLO and the Baath party were both founded by European-educated Christian intellectuals such as professor Mitchell Aflaq, the French-educated Orthodox Christian philosopher.

    We now have to deal with the strictures of Sharia Law not only in Afghanistan (where women, Christians and Shiites are now only marginally better off than under the Taleban), but also in Iraq and Palestine where America literally handed power on silver plate to unsavory Islamic fundamentalists such as the leaders of Hamas and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which both call for the “full implementation of Sharia Law” whatever that means.

    I wonder what happened to George Bush’s cherished “love of freedom”

  53. Matoko Kusanagi Says:

    sorry, but the historical parallel here is an american child custody case where the mother accuses the father of sexual molesting the children for leverage.
    that is what happened.
    you are making this out to be some apocryphal crises des neufs, but it ain’t.
    you know absolutely nothing about sharia law.

    did you get your information from MEMRI? then it is most likely just as accurate as the wafa sultan death fatwa. you are useful idiots, and what you say is manipulated by the salafists to their advantage.

  54. Steve Says:

    Grackle: Since we disagree on most other things I am glad we can agree on something from time to time.

    I re-read the post of Dr Sanity that Neo referenced, I must quote the ending:


    I guess we will see if there is a way to amputate shari’a from Islam; or if drastic measures must be taken to surgically remove Islam from the body of humanity.

    I get the impression that, because the Afghanis want to execute some Afghani we have to fight a war of extermination with Islam? This is too much.

    I think I have posted before that I have read the Koran or parts thereof on a few occasions and find it rather thin sustenance. But it’s not my religion.


    If allowed a relatively independent process it seems that any group of Moslem leaders will form a government with Sharia as the core of its law.

    That sounds about right.


    Does this tendency bode well for peaceful relations between Islam & the West?

    It depends on whether Islam or some variant thereof is going to try to conquer the world by force. If it means that they are going to govern their own people by ways and means and values that most of us find reprehensible, not necessarily.

    I think people have to be realistic about what they expect the WOT to achieve. Does anyone really think that 21st Century American values and laws can be transplanted anywhere, easily, or, at all? If not, then you have to expect this kind of stuff by the people we are “liberating.”


    Hasn’t there been a WWIII, a religious war, beginning in 1979 with the embassy hostages?

    No.

    It only takes one side with motives based on religion to make a religious war.

    Anyone who broaches the idea of exterminating Islam over the unjust death of one Christian is calling for a religious war.


    Trotsky: You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

    I’m not particularly interested in seeing a lot of people getting killed. More importantly, the American people are not interested in war, and are not being galvanized, mobilized, or asked to sacrifice for any war. Who’s fault is that?

  55. grackle Says:

    I’m with Steve on this one point: I fear the Rahman case is only the beginning. This time a life was saved but there are certain to be other incidents. Maybe the Taliban, instead of being a cruel political anomaly, simply reflected the beliefs & customs of Afghanistan, which are quite cruel & intolerant, being based on Sharia.

    I wonder, is there any nation with a Moslem majority in which the law is not based on Sharia? By opposing Sharia does the West create Sharia, as Doc Vic suggests? It’s parallel anti-warrior meme is: By opposing terrorism the West creates terrorism.

    I think if you turn & face your harasser, he is almost certain to increase his aggression. The only alternative is continued acquiescence.

    Is there a mass of liberal, secular-oriented Moslems out there that might soon have some tempering influence on Islamic societies? Sadly, I’m beginning to think not.

    I don’t think the US should count on Afghanistan & Iraq becoming democratic in any sense that these democracies will mirror Western democracies on human rights. The average Moslem citizen, if given a choice, seems to take to elections readily enough but elections are only part of a democracy. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for in the near future is that whatever type of regimes evolve in these countries that they will not behave as the Taliban & Saddam regimes behaved.

    If allowed a relatively independent process it seems that any group of Moslem leaders will form a government with Sharia as the core of its law. Does this tendency bode well for peaceful relations between Islam & the West? Hasn’t there been a WWIII, a religious war, beginning in 1979 with the embassy hostages? It only takes one side with motives based on religion to make a religious war. Trotsky: You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

  56. Steve Says:

    Vega: Yes, Dostoevsky is a fun writer, for a lot of reasons, but more particular for this, because he touches on most of the intellectual issues that people were debating at the time (1860-1880), and the intellectual issues of any era are always the same, although rephrased somewhat different. He’s a novelist who makes you think. Not many do.

  57. Dr Victorino de la Vega Says:

    Steve,
    I’ve checked your Blogger profile- notably the favorite books section:

    “Dostoevsky when young, Nietzsche when young adult, Schopenhauer lifelong, Dickens”

    Yeah

    “Notes from Underground” is THE book: it covers all the issues and beyond!

  58. Steve Says:


    Historical parallels with the Inquisition and the low points of other religions in this arena are quite beside the point

    They are beside the point if the purpose of such comparisons is to provide an apologia for the intolerance of Sharia law.

    They are not beside the point if the purpose of such comparisons is to remind us that all religions have been like this, and require a long time to evolve out of it.


    The truth is that the whole concept of “tolerance” is a mockery if it extends to tolerating the intolerent

    A statement like this simply means that the word “intolerant” is the new rhetorical football that everyone will want to control. In our own society, the imposition of any kinds of social standards brings forth calls of “intolerance” from one quarter or another. Speech that one wants to see outlawed is similarly dubbed, “intolerant.” Just for an example, criticism of gay marriage could be called homophobic and therefore intolerant and therefore outlawable. Or, refusal to allow criticism of gay marriage could be considered “intolerant.” Again, it’s just the first example that came to me, but the concept could be applied anywhere.

    Rather than say that this is about “tolerance” or “intolerance” let’s just say what it is: a religion that allows for the killing of apostates. We in the West are past that; although it took us 500 years and many religious wars. The Muslim world is not past that. History indicates that they will at some point.


    The only question is whether it must be faced sooner and through radical change

    This sounds a bit like the idea that we can impose massive changes on cultures by fiat. I think it is a deeply flawed idea, for one thing, it doesn’t recognize that “a mind changed against its will / remains unconvinced still.”

    In the past, when Westerners attempted to impose their values on foreign cultures, the cultures would rebel (yes, even in India) or they would simply submerge their culture into a kind of underground. If we, for example, imposed religious tolerance on Islam in places where it wasn’t ready for it, we would (1) end up having to kill a lot of people, (2) alienate the people we were trying to help, (3) probably cause our policies to fail.

    You know, talking about radical change, the Soviet Union was a model of radical change, and left tens of millions of dead in its wake. I would think that people would give up on the idea of radical change by now.

    Of course, we can do it. But if we don’t have enough boots on the ground to secure borders, we surely don’t have enough boots on the ground to make sure that Afghanis practice our brand of tolerance.

    Countries like Afghanistan and many other non-Western countries are “backward” and “less developed” in the sense that they have not yet reached the point in the evolution of their culture where religion is basically a private thing. Again, it took our culture many hundreds of years to get to that point, and my guess is that the development of non-religious institutions, including such concepts as the Enlightenment and the arts and sciences were an important part of that. The Muslim world will take some time, probably over 100 years, to evolve.

    As to some other points:

    Obviously, looking at the Bible, laws were rules of social organization that shot through every facet of life. In those days, the priests or rabbis had all the powers of government, and to challenge religious teaching, therefore, was to challenge all the aspects of government, IOW, almost to be an anarchist or revolutionary. I’m sure that’s the thinking with this Rahman fellow at some level.

    Since that time we in the West have developed our laws largely on custom: most everyone does such and so, some weirdo does x, the vast majority don’t like x, so they outlaw x. In many cases over time there is a recognition that x doesn’t really matter, so the law against it isn’t enforced, and eventually the law is repealed. Oftentimes these x laws are in direct response to health or social concerns. For example, laws against spitting on sidewalks, drunk driving, public smoking, etc. all evolved out of some social concern, some attempt at public safety and minorly in terms of social engineering (of course the biggest experiment in social engineering, prohibition, was a complete flop and created a large criminal sub-culture.) So my feeling about laws is that they are generally writing down attitudes that the majority already subscribe to.

    Second, about social change. I think it was Alexander Gerschenkron who wrote an analysis showing that the path of the “industrial revolution” (which brings about the attendant cultural result of “modernity”) was more damaging as you moved across Europe (the course generally was west to east), because the farther east you went (e.g., Russia) the more they had to “catch up”. For some of these cultures in Asia the difference between them and 21st Century USA is far greater than, say, the difference between 19th Century Germany and 19th Century Russia. Therefore we should expect the economic, social, political, and cultural stresses to be greater, and probably even more violent (and 20th C Europe was pretty effing violent!) We should move carefully and patiently to midwife them. Too much force will create unintended consequences that will only hurt us.

    I’m glad that Rahman was released, and I am sure that there was some back channel stuff going on here. I am also sure that, sometime soon, someone will be stoned to death for adultery, or fornication, or drinking alcohol, or whatever. I suspect we will never hear about it.

  59. troutsky Says:

    It occurs to me that much of this well reasoned argument can be used to confront those who would impose law based on Christian scripture on others. Whether or not a fetus has a “soul”, whether or not gays may marry or the ten commandments can be displayed in courthouses or kids can pray in school etc all depend on how much we need to “tolerate’ the beliefs of others.Lewis Lapham puts it well concerning repecting the beliefs of others: “I dont quarrel with anybodys right to believe anything he or she wishes to believe, but passion isnt a synonym for truth.Must I repect a woman who believes that oysters sing?”

  60. Ymarsakar Says:

    I smile whenever I read vega. Cause surely he does his place of origin proud with his moniker.

    The solution in this case is the same as that which protected blacks from the lynchings of the KKK, the neo-Nazis, or whatever militia group there were.

    Posted a more detailed version of my response here,

    Link

  61. Dr Victorino de la Vega Says:

    Thanks to George Bush’s failed foreign policy based on the deliberate targeting of the (relatively) secular and Westernized regimes of Jericho and Baghdad (the much maligned PLO and the Baath party were both founded by European-educated Christian intellectuals), we now have to deal with the strictures of Sharia Law in Afghanistan (not to mention Denmark and Ontario), the rise of Hamas and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which the Neocons have brought to power…

    Thank Allah and Zeus, not everyone is blessed with the intellectual rigor and visionary foresight that imperial policy making requires…

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>



About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
Read More >>






Monthly Archives



Blogroll

Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge