Saturday, December 15, 2007

Celebrating diversity (continued)

The glorious mosaic strikes again. From

A Mississauga, Ont. man will be formally charged on Tuesday with murder in connection with the death of his 16-year-old daughter. The girl, Aqsa Parvez, was in critical condition on Monday after being strangled, apparently after a dispute with her family over her refusal to wear the hijab, the Islamic headscarf worn by some Muslim women. However Peel Regional Police said Tuesday the girl died late Monday night.
The Toronto Star is full of sympathy - for the hijab:
...members of the community - particularly young Muslim women - say the tension can exist both ways. Ausma Khan, the editor-in-chief of Toronto-based Muslim Girl magazine, said research into the readership of her publication shows that the decision to wear the hijab - the traditional Muslim headscarf - is almost always a choice the girl makes on her own.

"We have also heard from other girls saying that they don't know if they want to wear it and that they're unsure and that there is community or family pressure to wear it," she said, but stressed that type of response was in the minority.

Maryam Rana, 20, a student at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, said she has been wearing the hijab since she was in Grade 3 and was not very receptive to it at first. [....]
Does anyone else remember the ladies on The View, including Whoopi Goldberg, solemnly informing us, after Sudanese mobs demanded the execution of the British schoolteacher, that everyone calls us the "ugly Americans" because we don't take the trouble to learn about and respect the cultures of countries overseas.

If the Toronto Star is going to talk about "going both ways", how about immigrants respecting the ways of the country to which they have moved? This is far from the first time such an incident has occurred on our continent.


Nine Democrats vote no on House resolution marking Christmas

And all but one voted yes on the Ramadan resolution in October, as did nine other Democrats who voted "present" on this one. (Barbara Lee missed the earlier vote.) The boss blogged this much earlier but after knocking Tanc for voting "present" on the Ramadan resolution - which no House member voted against, do note - I'd be remiss if I didn't flag this at HA. Any explanations here other than simple bigotry? If so, Steve King says he'd love to hear them, as would I. The left sometimes seem to have it in its mind that the Establishment Clause contains some sort of equal protection component that makes it okay to endorse minority religions, however symbolically, while scrupulously resisting the faith of the majority lest it burst into theocracy. No such doctrine, boys. The most principled guy in all of this is Mike Pence, who voted "present" on both, followed by those who voted yes to both, followed in turn by those who voted "present" on one but yes on the other (a group which includes Steve King), followed at last by our nine Democratic friends here, the only members in all the bunch who clearly preferred one religion to another.

And yes, of course, the atheist who thinks Bush gets his rocks off by blowing the heads off Iraqi kids is among the nine hypocrites. What a filthy little fraud.

Tanc, who had business elsewhere today and missed the vote, defended his "present" vote on the Ramadan resolution thusly: "This resolution is an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite in this country. I am not opposed to commending any religion for their faith. The problem is that any attempt to do so for Jews or Christians is immediately condemned as `breaching' the non-existent line between Church and State by the same elite." Exit question: In light of today's landslide, will he be voting yes on the Ramadan resolution next year?


NAACP pushes racial hoaxes

Last May, firefighters at a Baltimore, Md., fire station came under scrutiny for displaying a deer with an afro wig, gold tooth, gold chain and a cigarette hanging from its mouth. Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, went ballistic, charging, "There is now and has been a culture of racism and white supremacy within the Baltimore City Fire Department."

As it turns out, it was a black fireman who dressed up the critter. Cheatham refused to apologize for his accusations of fire department racism, maintaining "there is now and has been a culture of racism and white supremacy within the Baltimore City Fire Department."

On Nov. 21, a hangman's noose was found at the fire station with a note, "We can't hang the cheaters, but we can hang the failures. No EMT-1, NO JOB." The noose and note turned up on the heels of an investigation into allegations of cheating on the test that emergency medical technicians must take for certification. Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, a black, in a written statement said, "I am outraged by this deplorable act of hatred and intimidation. Threats and racial attacks are unacceptable anywhere, especially in a firehouse." Doc Cheatham said, "We're going to demand that this be handled as a hate crime. This thing really needs to end here in Baltimore city." The incident prompted a federal investigation.

Last week, Donald Maynard, a black firefighter-paramedic, confessed to having placed the noose, note and drawing depicting a lynching on a bunk in the firehouse. City officials said Maynard was recently suspended, prior to his confession, from the department Friday for failing to meet requirements for advanced life-saving training. A spokesman for Mayor Dixon said there would be no criminal charges filed.

In response to Maynard's confession, NAACP President Cheatham still blamed white racism, saying, "It really saddens us to hear that evidently things have reached a stage that even an African-American does an injustice to himself and his own people as a result of a negative culture in that department."

Doc Cheatham is a poster boy for demonstrating a much larger problem, namely that the once proud and useful NAACP has outlived that usefulness and has in some instances become an impediment to black progress. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black liberal-to-moderate Washington-based think-tank, reported that 88 percent of blacks favored educational choice plans. A Gallup Poll found 72 percent of blacks support school choice. The NAACP, acting as handmaidens for the teachers' unions, is solidly against school vouchers. A Gallup Poll shows 44 percent of blacks are for the death penalty and 49 percent against it, but the NAACP is solidly against it.

The major problems confronting a large segment of the black community have little or nothing to do with racism -- problems such as unprecedented illegitimacy, family breakdown, fraudulent education, crime and rampant social pathology. If white people became angels tomorrow, it would do nothing to solve problems that can only be solved by blacks....

The "down with the struggle" civil rights movement has become at best a joke. It works against the interests of blacks on education and is doing nothing about the catastrophic breakdown of the black family. Some of its members even lash out at Bill Cosby who is trying to do something about the problem. His new book, Come On People, goes to the heart of the problem.



As of last April, the late Edward Said's "Orientalism," originally published in 1978, was no. 2 on the best-seller list in Cairo. No. 1was a book arguing that Saddam Hussein hadn't really been executed - all cell phone video evidence to the contrary, the writer argued, was a fabrication of the CIA.

Ibn Warraq, a scholar of Islam and the author of the recently released "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism," pointed out this macabre fact to me over the phone as a sign of what went wrong with postcolonial studies - the academic field more or less founded by Said, which, in an effort to examine the relationship of conqueror to conquered, placed a dime-store psychology of empire at the center of every discussion of "East meets West." Not only did the British and French colonize and expropriate the East, according to Said, their imperial prejudice clouded their understanding of those they conquered. More than that, they "invented" an entire sham epistemology, Said and his followers contend, with which every Western observer has since approached the East and used to his advantage in further colonizing and expropriating it. Said's legacy, however, accomplished exactly what anyone professing sympathy with the Islamic world should have wished to avoid, Mr. Warraq believes. That is, in defending the virtue of traditional cultures, it gave that world a high-minded rationalization for a persisting status quo of medievalism and intellectual poverty throughout the Middle East.

"'Orientalism,'" Mr. Warraq writes, "taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity . encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s, and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam." Though it's Mr. Warraq's plaint that the book "stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims' sensibilities," it is not merely an abstract charge, but personally felt. "Ibn Warraq" is an Arabic pseudonym, meaning "son of a stationer, book-seller, paper-seller," which this Indian-born writer assumed after witnessing the critical reception Islamists gave Salman Rushdie, all the while claiming themselves as victims.

Said, Mr. Warraq argues, contributed to the Islamic ideology of victimization, practically inviting offense by writing, "every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric." This sentence is repeated multiple times throughout "Defending the West," which otherwise might have been titled "Not In My Name." Applying the cool, thin steel of Occam to these and other follies of logic and critical analysis, Mr. Warraq asks, "If Orientalists have produced a false picture of the Orient, Orientals, Islam, Arabs, and Arabic society. then how could this false or pseudo-knowledge have helped European imperialists to dominate three-quarters of the globe?"

As with all theories that attempt to explain everything and end up explaining little, Said's suffers from the added vice of being dangerous. "I delivered a paper at the American Enterprise Institute two weeks ago on Robert Conquest," Mr. Warraq said. "I talked about Foucault. He made a complete ass of himself and he refused to retract anything he said when he endorsed the revolution in Iran. He was very much pro-Khomeini. When secularists wrote to him, he dismissed them as inauthentic because they were too Westernized!"

Mr. Warraq's esteem for Conquest, the premier truth teller of Stalinism, comports neatly with his defense of what he terms the three pillars of Western thought: rationalism, self-criticism, and universalism. By Orientalism's lights, these are mere masquerades for prejudice, hubris, and condescension - ironically, the very faults Mr. Warraq ascribes to Said and his epigones, particularly when it comes to such an urgent question as Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. "Anybody who wants to modernize must be a stooge of the imperialists," Mr. Warraq said, paraphrasing their worldview. "Anyone who thinks rationally is suspect. Foucault once said, '[Iranians] have a different regime of truth than ours.' This is cultural relativism gone berserk. If anything is 'Orientalist' in the pejorative sense, it is that."

In "Defending the West," Mr. Warraq catalogs Said's many solecisms and howlers - mistaking "scatological" for "eschatological," assuming the great Hungarian Orientalist Ignaz Goldhizer to be German, ignorantly assigning territories to the British and French imperiums that really belonged to the Ottoman one. But his real aim is more ambitious still: to create a "parallel work . made up of extracts from Western writers, scholars and travelers who were attracted by various aspects of non-European cultures, which they praised and contrasted favorably with their own decadence, bigotry, intolerance and bellicosity." In this, Mr. Warraq excels like a latter-day Voltaire, compiling an exhaustive and painstakingly researched "Encyclopedie" of the many humanist European surveyors of the East. In a series of illuminating pen portraits, he shows that the West very often exalted the "rest."

Mr. Warraq starts with the color-blind, cosmopolitan Greeks. The ancient inhabitants of the island of Chios thought Zeus was black. Herodotus was an unabashed philobarbaros. Aeschylus rendered Darius tragically and sympathetically for the theater, and Alexander the Great, who intermarried and encouraged the practice among his soldiery, had the Persian king's actual corpse wrapped in his own cloak as a gesture of respect for a vanquished opponent. The Greco-Bactrians of Eurasia believed they came to India with the descendants of Dionysus. Even the Dark Ages allow rarely glimpsed shafts of light. Isidore of Seville (560-636) "introduced Aristotle to his countrymen before the Arabs," whom Adelard of Bath, in the 12th century, credited with having the best critical faculties of any race of man. In the Renaissance, the Muslim philosophers Averroes and Avicenna were read compulsively in Padua and Bologna, not least of all by Pico della Mirandola.

Antiquity had the basic philosophical underpinnings right, Mr. Warraq writes, but the Enlightenment broadened man's scope and gave him a secular, scientific basis for the study of natural law. Indeed, as a proud atheist, the author of "Why I Am Not a Muslim," and an anthologist of several books devoted to Muslim apostasy and exegesis of the Koran, Mr. Warraq would happily color himself an "Enlightenment fundamentalist," to borrow Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma's shared animadversion on Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Mr. Buruma had problems with Said's methodology and is cited approvingly in "Defending the West," so I was curious to hear what Mr. Warraq thought of his treatment of the Somali dissident. "[Buruma] wrote a disgraceful book full of an incredible number of errors blaming the victim for bringing it all on herself."

And what about Tariq Ramadan, the "moderate" Islamic philosopher, son of the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, who is Buruma's preferred dragoman for liberal Europe? Mr. Warraq debated him in London last month on the question of the superiority of Western values. "When [Ramadan] gives interviews in English, he's incredibly evasive. He's not the kind of guy I'd buy a secondhand car from. If you ask him, 'Do you think lapidation for adultery should be banned?,' he never says 'yes' categorically. He says things such as, 'At this moment, it is not applicable' or 'it is not advisable.' Always this prevarication."

Mr. Warraq's beef with Said, however, is more a matter of reductionism than prevarication: that "Orientalism" misses two crucial points about human nature in its discussion of relations between East and West. The first is that even the worst offenders aren't always motivated by bigotry or grand imperial designs. The second is that the institutions they erect are often more significant and enduring than their venality and greed.

Mr. Warraq praises the British of the 18th and 19th centuries for their role shepherding India's cultural renewal - not to mention in combating the corruption of British colonialism. Edmund Burke led the moral and legislative charge against Warren Hastings, the notorious head of the East India Company. James Prinsep, a secretary of the celebrated Asiatic Society of Bengal, drained the malarial swamps of Calcutta, restored the collapsing mosque of Aurangzeb stone by stone, and discovered that once-indecipherable rock inscriptions were made by the Mughal emperor Asoka Maurya. Mr. Warraq relies on several modern Indian historians, such as A.L. Basham and Nirad Chaudhuri, to emphasize the great esteem in which British Orientalists are still held - men such as Henry Thomas Colebrooke, who agitated for the end of the East India Company's monopoly and composed a systematic study of Sanskrit and Hindu law as well as the only authoritative analysis of the Veda; Sir William Jones, the "father of Indian history" and one of the early discoverers of the Indo-European linguistic nexus (he thought Sanskrit "more exquisitely refined" than Latin or Greek), and William Carey, the "father of Bengali prose," who single-handedly restored a lost literature.

Mr. Warraq is no admirer of the "clash of civilizations" thesis, and - as if to prove his own point about self-criticism - he says he absorbed a lot of the negative feedback on "Why I Am Not a Muslim." This is why, in the current volume, he employs a useful tripartite distinction of Islam borrowed, he says, from Bernard Lewis: Islam One is the Koran, Islam Two is the hadith, or oral tradition relating to the words and deeds of the prophet, and Islam Three is Muslim civilization, which is as variegated as it is large. One and two, Mr. Warraq says, are incompatible with democracy and human rights. As for three, "many Muslim feminists try to re-interpret or ignore Koranic passages in order to improve the lives of all Muslim women. Only time will tell if such strategies will work." Mr. Warraq tells me: "We're not going to eradicate Islam from the face of the earth, and I have no wish for it to be. Islam Three is going to require a lot of sociological and empirical research. One has to be careful when we talk about Islam, one has to be more specific." This is a courtesy Said botched, or simply failed to accord, in his examination of the West.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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