Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Muslim extremists cow other Muslims
The real battle for religious freedom lurks beneath the Ground Zero mosque controversy. It is sadly ironic that our public debate presents the mosque proponents as the partisans of liberty: That includes everyone from imam Feisal Rauf, the project’s sharia-touting sponsor, to President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, and the rest of the Islamist-smitten Left, to the GOP’s own anti-anti-terrorist wing. Yet, wittingly or not, when they champion this mosque and its sponsors, it is the agenda of an alien and authoritarian Islam that they champion — an Islam against which many American Muslims chafe.
When it comes to liberty, no one in this society has been given a wider berth than the Islamists, the purveyors of this authoritarian Islam, which is the mainstream Islam of the Middle East. Their vise grip on the American Muslim community has been cinched for two decades by the government, the media, and the academy. For our post-American ruling class, “Islamic outreach” means prostituting themselves for Saudi largesse; it means putting the “moderate” label on the Muslim Brotherhood — the Saudi-backed saboteurs whose American operatives boldly promise to “eliminate and destroy Western Civilization from within.”
The victims of this lethal charade include American Muslims. They, too, crave religious liberty and Western enlightenment. Our elites abandon them to the sharia-mongers. That freedom destroyers have been allowed to pose as freedom defenders ought to tell mosque opponents something: We have done a poor job of explaining the stakes.
In 1993, I headed up a prosecution team that was preparing to try the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven other jihadists for conducting a terrorist war against the United States. The case revealed this country’s Muslim divide.
On one side were patriotic American Muslims, without whom successful prosecution would have been impossible. Not only did they infiltrate the terror cells, they helped us shape the resulting evidence into a compelling narrative. On the other side were the Muslim Brotherhood’s satellites. These included outfits like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), which was formed in 1994 by the Brotherhood’s Hamas-support wing, with seed money from an Islamic “charity” — the Holy Land Foundation — later shut down for financing foreign terrorist organizations. These Brotherhood satellites purport to speak for American Muslims. In fact, they speak for anti-American Muslims, most of whom are outside the United States. They demagogued the case as a phobic criminalization of Islam itself, just as they have libeled America since 9/11 as being “at war with Islam.”
Translating evidence into English turned out to be a Herculean challenge during our trial preparation. Most of our evidence was in Arabic, because almost all of our defendants had immigrated here from Egypt and Sudan, hotbeds of anti-American Islam. The resulting mounds of documents, wiretap recordings, and inflammatory sermons overstretched the Justice Department’s thin Arabic-language capacity. To ease the strain, we tried to retain some civilians as private contractors. A number of local Muslims expressed interest, but in the end they turned us down.
BROTHERHOOD ISLAM vs. AMERICAN ISLAM
Mind you, they wanted to help. They were as offended as anyone by what the terrorists had done. These folks were Americans. They were the kind of Muslims you’re never exposed to, given the media’s preference for jihad apologists who, when not applauding him, claim Osama bin Laden was “made in the U.S.A.” But the would-be translators wanted ironclad assurance that their assistance to the prosecution would be kept confidential. It was an assurance I was not in a position to give, so they politely declined.
Here’s the most depressing part: It wasn’t really a matter of safety. There was surely some element of that — it goes with the territory in terrorism cases. But these people were mostly worried that they and their families would be ostracized in their communities as traitors to Islam.
In Muslim communities, I learned, many people — especially American Muslims — were supportive of our investigations. Of course they didn’t like the light of suspicion being shined on Muslims, not any more than Italian Americans liked the attention our mafia cases thrust on their communities. Yet they tuned out the CAIR chorus, just as most sensible people tune out the grievance industry. They reserved most of their resentment for the malevolent, anti-American actors in their midst. They understood that public safety is the government’s highest obligation. As long as they could do it quietly, they were willing to help.
But doing it quietly was imperative. Most American Muslims are not instinctively different from other Americans. But American Muslim communities are peculiar. In many of them, the leadership of the mosques and Islamic centers is foreign (or at least foreign-influenced). This leadership tends to be anti-Western and arrogant, claiming an Islamic authenticity Americans are said to lack. Many American Muslims are intimidated into silence. They are cowed by the specter of being condemned as too American. In Islam, there is no more grievous offense than causing disunity through infidelity. It is no small thing when community leaders frame a Muslim as insufficiently loyal to the ummah, the notional Islamic nation.
BOOK REVIEW: Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto"
Excerpts from a review by Daniel Mandel
Levin falls squarely in the traditionalist camp, eschewing the profligate spending of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and disdaining calls for renovation in the interests of electability. He sees Republicans spending and governing like liberals as a recipe for ideological bankruptcy and irrelevance, not competitiveness. Levin seeks to convince his fellow conservatives (and Americans of all stripes) that the only way to regain their lost power is through a return to those principles that animated America’s Founders and the Framers of its Constitution: liberty, free markets, religion, tradition, and authority.
Yet above all, argues Levin, the conservative believes in the “harmony of interests” and the “rules of cooperation that have developed through generations of human experience.” The interaction of these rules and interests occurs in civil society. There, the individual is free to discover his own potential and to pursue his own interests—while nonetheless tempered by a moral order founded in faith, and while guided by the exercise of reason. In such a situation, insists Levin, both the individual and his social order thrive. To Levin, then, the conservative must take as his overarching goal civil society’s preservation and improvement.
If the conservative has always placed the individual and his rights at the center of his political vision, in the modern liberal version, that place is reserved for the state. Indeed, maintains Levin, today’s liberal views the individual’s imperfections and personal pursuits as obstacles to Utopia, or to a state defined by egalitarian principles. While conservatives also recognize equality as a vital liberty, contends Levin, the modern liberal has adapted and prioritized it with the goal of producing uniform economic and social outcomes—in other words, of creating “a culture of conformity and dependency” under the guise of “compassion.” He castigates both modern liberals and reformist conservatives alike who would swell governmental power toward this end
Of course, Levin maintains, conservatives are also compassionate; they also wish to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the sick. The crucial difference between them and their liberal counterparts, however, is how to go about doing so. Conservatives see reform as the proper vehicle of change, one that transforms by improvement; liberals advocate for innovation, or transformation by substitution. As a result, says Levin, the modern liberal often elaborates new rights, which on closer inspection require still further state intervention, often to the detriment of existing rights.
Levin calls such liberals “Statists,” accusing them of advocating for the concentration of ever more power in government as a foil to the individual’s imperfections and personal pursuits. Unlike the classical liberal, who was a staunch opponent of authority, today’s liberal Statists, argues Levin, seek a more centralized, powerful government specifically for the purpose of imposing their own policy preferences.
This, he concludes, is not liberty, but a form of despotism. “For the Statist, liberty is not a blessing but the enemy,” he writes. “It is not possible to achieve Utopia if individuals are free to go their own way.… The Statist’s Utopia can take many forms, and has throughout human history, including monarchism, feudalism, militarism, fascism, communism, national socialism, and economic socialism. They are all of the same species—tyranny.”
Conservatives, Levin therefore insists, must not heedlessly support the status quo, as they are so often accused of doing. After all, today’s status quo “may well be a condition created by the statist and destructive of the civil society—such as 1960s cultural degradations.”
In Levin’s accounting, the liberal Statist’s pursuit of uniform economic and social outcomes has been afforded by an essentially Gramscian takeover of institutions such as government bureaucracy, media, the film industry, and the universities. By means of a relentless attack on so-called bourgeois values; the derision of the concept of American exceptionalism; the promotion of multiculturalism; and the determined insertion of a class-driven resentment into the national discourse, the liberal Statist pursues his agenda.
Nowhere, according to Levin, has the liberal-Statist agenda wreaked more havoc than in the economy, a discussion to which he devotes a good part of his book. Good conservative that he is, Levin is a firm believer in the dynamism and transformative energy of the free market. He thus derides the majority of liberal Statists who, while not being actual Marxists, nonetheless remain beholden to an essentially socialist conception of society, one in which the free market is the paradigmatic Root of All Evil.
Starting with the Great Depression, Levin observes that “the Statists successfully launched a counterrevolution that radically and fundamentally altered the nature of American society.” Indeed, to Levin, the significance of the resulting New Deal is not in any one program, but in its sweeping break from America’s founding principles and constitutional limitations. Through an array of federal projects, entitlements, taxes, and regulations, President Roosevelt and Congress brazenly overstepped the Constitution’s bounds....
Yet, Levin reminds us, the middle class—which stands to gain the most from the free market—is no ancien regime minority that can be overwhelmed by force. The economic strategy of Statists has been therefore been roughly that of Saul Alinsky, the radical Chicago community organizer whose writings influenced President Obama: to make the middle class the proper arena of activist work, and to persuade enough of its members to relinquish their liberties and throw in their lot with statism—camouflaged as affirmative, non-threatening, prophylactic change.
Levin is correct to recognize that this approach makes the conservatives’ advocacy for free-market principles a hard sell. We humans, after all, all too easily become accustomed to booms, and tend to regard luxuries as entitlements, while conversely regarding busts and their concomitant privations as illicit violations of the natural order.
Insulated from the norms of scarcity that have been the historical lot of most societies, the modern democratic citizen is particularly vulnerable to statist nostrums on the subject of economic inequality. Yet, Levin points out, Statists have no answer to the fact that the free market is the only system to have procured a sustained (though not linear) rise in general prosperity.
The author of a critique of judicial activism, Men in Black (2006), Levin is particularly passionate when discussing statism’s disregard for natural law—a body of law, in other words, believed to be binding upon human society apart from (or in conjunction with) laws established by human authority.
He criticizes as well statism’s antipathy toward religion, which, he claims, they seek increasingly to cordon off from public life. Here Levin reminds that the “wall of separation” between Church and State that is today widely thought to warrant the exclusion of religion from public life is of comparatively recent vintage: It is the result of the 1947 Everson decision, by which Justice Hugo Black, a former Klansman, decided that state subsidies for transportation to and from New Jersey schools—including parochial ones—amounted to an indirect aid to religion.
In this, Levin argues, Black merely succeeded in importing his anti-Catholic animus into American jurisprudence. For in truth, shows Levin, the Founding Fathers did not believe that natural law could be dissociated from divine Providence, or religion from the public square: to do so would simply lead to arbitrary constructs of morality. Moreover, he points out, a renunciation of religious liberty could easily lead to a kind of tyranny all its own: “American courts sit today as supreme secular councils, which, like Islam’s supreme religious councils, dictate all manner of approved behavior respecting religion.”
Sociologist Debunks Myths on U.S. Christianity
Christianity isn't on the brink of extinction, divorce rates of Christians aren't equal to that of non-Christians and churches are not losing young people – at least not to the extent that some fear.
That isn't to say there aren't any problems in the church. But Bradley R. E. Wright wants all the facts to be laid out before any judgment calls are made. In his newly released book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ... and Other Lies You've Been Told, Wright reveals that many of the commonly cited statistics regarding the state of U.S. Christianity or the behaviors of Christians are incomplete and inaccurate.
A lot of the data – especially the kind that get media coverage – are negatively slanted and paint a bleak picture of Christians and the church. Wright is concerned that the onslaught of inaccurate bad news could distract from what really is bad news and could demotivate Christians from being active Christ followers and from inviting others to join.
Wright, 47, is associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. He formerly studied crime and homelessness but switched his focus to American Christianity after receiving tenure. "I wanted to work more merging my faith and my profession," he said in an interview with The Christian Post.
Raised in the Catholic Church, he became a born-again Christian in high school and is now part of an evangelical community.
His journey of discovering the real state of U.S. Christianity began when he had doubts about the popularly cited divorce statistic. "We're all familiar with the idea that Christians have divorce rates as high, if not higher, than non-Christians," he explained in the interview. "I heard that for years but as I thought about it, it just didn't make sense." He and his wife had received so much support from pastors, small group members, and the church as a whole that he could not understand how that couldn't make a difference on marriages.
After analyzing five different sets of data, he found that Christians actually have lower divorce rates. His analysis can be found on his blog, brewright.com. "[People] found that gratifying to sort of bust that myth as it were," he commented.
In his book, he presents data from the General Social Survey, which he describes as "the Cadillac of national studies" that has collected data since 1972. The divorce rate among the religiously unaffiliated is 50 percent while that of mainline Protestants, evangelicals and Catholics is 41 percent, 46 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
The statistics are more positive when it comes to active churchgoers. Only 38 percent of evangelicals who attend church weekly have been divorced, compared to 60 percent of evangelicals who never attend.
Extinction? Perhaps the most unhelpful perception Christians have about Christianity is that it's on the brink of extinction or that in a decade or two "we'll all be huddled in basements or something," Wright said.
"That's a problem because basically if we’re in the Titanic and we've already hit an iceberg, why would we want to invite anyone to join us? Why would we want to devote ourselves to it?" he posed. "Basically, if you have a sinking ship, you don’t invite people to it, you jump off and get away. And so I would say it’s perhaps the most harmful myth that Christians believe about ourselves.
Mainline Protestantism has indeed decreased dramatically from over 30 percent of the population in 1970 to less than 15 percent and the number of Americans not affiliated with a religion has doubled within that same time frame. But the percentage of evangelical Christians has grown to 25 percent and Catholics and black Protestants have remained stable in their representation.
The United States "is still very much a country of Christians" with three out of four Americans affiliating themselves with Christianity, Wright wrote.
Even among the unaffiliated, it turns out many of them are religious. Though they rarely attend religious services, more than half (56 percent) of them believe in God and another 22 percent believe in a higher power. Fifty-five percent believe that the Bible is either the literal or inspired Word of God and 49 percent pray daily or weekly. Overall, over 90 percent of Americans have believed and continue to believe in some form of God.
Young people leaving? The exodus of young people from the church has been a major concern. Popular speakers, including apologist Josh McDowell, have frequently stated that some two-thirds of the younger generation was leaving the Christian faith and that unless something was done now Christianity wouldn't survive another decade. The popularly cited statistic is that only four percent of young Americans will be Bible-believing Christians as adults.
Wright found that the four percent figure came from an informal survey a seminary professor did 10 years ago. He interviewed 211 young people in three states. "In terms of quality, this statistic is about as valid as someone putting a survey question on their Facebook page and then having their friends and acquaintances answer it," Wright wrote in his book. "There's nothing wrong with doing it, it's just not very trustworthy."
Yet Christian speakers and youth leaders have organized conferences and developed resources around such statistics. "My sense is that they're using these statistics with the best intentions, that their goal is to try to save the church from what they perceive to be a terrible problem and imminent disaster," Wright noted. "The expression I use is 'scary statistics are useful,' that it helps us to create audiences and create a need for our message."
Wright went further to compare today's generation of young people to previous generations. He pointed out that since the 1970s, between 20 and 25 percent of young people have been affiliated with evangelical Christianity. Currently, 22 percent of young adults affiliate with evangelical churches, down from 25 percent in the 1990s, but up from 21 percent in the 1970s.
Though the percentage of young people who are religiously unaffiliated increased to 25 percent over the past couple of decades, the increase in the unaffiliated is seen across all age groups. In fact, the percentage of the religiously unaffiliated almost tripled among people in their thirties to sixties.
Today's evangelical youth were also found to be more committed and more active than young Christians of previous generations. In the 1970s, only about one-third of young evangelicals viewed themselves as "strong evangelicals" compared to 50 percent today. About half prayed daily in the 1980s but over two-thirds do so today. Church attendance also increased from about 35 percent in the 1970s and 1980s to over 40 percent now among young evangelicals.
Also, young people who leave organized religion often rejoin when they grow older and start families of their own, Wright noted. Citing the General Social Survey, the sociologist revealed that with previous generations – those born in the 1910s up until the 1980s – evangelical involvement increased with age. Only 19 percent of those born in the 1930s and 1940s identified as evangelicals when they were in their twenties. By the time they were in their seventies, 30 percent were evangelicals.
Though he can't make any predictions, Wright says he doesn't see evidence in the data "of a cataclysmic loss of young people."
Things are going well.
When Wright set out to analyze data for a more accurate look at Christianity, he was expecting at least half of the data – on church growth, beliefs, participation, morals, how Christians treat others and how others view Christians – to be negative. But surprisingly, much of it was positive. "I think it’s more accurate to have a more positive perception of Christians. In many ways, things are going well," he said.
But Wright doesn't want to ignore the bad news. Even though the divorce rate among evangelicals is lower than reported, it has still doubled over the last three to four decades. Sexual promiscuity and porn viewing may be lowest among regular evangelical church attenders compared to other groups, but still many are struggling. And though evangelical Christians score high when it comes to selfless caring for others and accepting others even when others do things they think are wrong, their attitudes toward minorities and gays are dismaying, Wright said.
Wright has gained a much more positive outlook on U.S. Christianity after finishing his book, but he acknowledged that there are things Christians need to work on. "But that’s part of the value of data is that it tells us where the real problems are," he said. "If we think everything’s a problem, then in a sense nothing’s a problem because it almost becomes white noise."
British police are at the beck and call of animal rights activists
Norris Atthey is a retired military policeman who for some years has been trying to defend one of the last pockets of red squirrels left in England , around Morpeth in Northumberland (see his website, Morpeth Red Squirrels). He does so by destroying the grey squirrels which across most of the country have seen off their red cousins, not least by infecting them with a fatal disease, squirrel pox. There used to be a bounty on them and it is still an offence to release them into the wild, since they are officially vermin. After trapping them, Mr Atthey has quite legally shot hundreds with an air pistol, very much more humane than hitting them over the head in a sack, as Natural England and other wildlife bodies prefer.
Mr Atthey was outraged when a Burton window cleaner was recently given a criminal record and lost £1,547 in costs after being prosecuted by the RSPCA for drowning a grey squirrel. He publicly challenged the charity by announcing that he had drowned one too. The ever-zealous RSPCA rose to the bait, knocking on his door to demand an interview. He responded that he had no more to say, beyond his published statement. Next morning, the RSPCA official returned, summoning two policemen to arrest Mr Atthey for “causing unnecessary suffering to an animal”. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station at Bedlington, some miles away, where he was held for nine hours in the cells. Eventually he was interrogated for an hour by an RSPCA official, with a policeman standing mutely by, before being released.
Why was Mr Atthey arrested on the orders of the RSPCA? Why was he handcuffed, and imprisoned for nine hours? When I put this to Northumbria police, they replied that “the RSPCA is leading this investigation” and that “the arrested man remained with police until suitable arrangements were in place for an interview to take place”.
This provokes much wider questions, also raised by other cases reported in this column, such as that of Alan Brough, who was held by Carlisle police for six hours while the RSPCA took away his 90 fell ponies, and who immediately went and hanged himself. [There was no evidence that the ponies were abused or were suffering in any way]
The RSPCA, that once-admirable charity, now often seems to pursue animal-lovers through the courts simply to win the publicity that keeps its £115 million a year in donations rolling in. And why do the police now regard themselves as the charity’s enforcement wing? What an admission from Northumbria police that they seek to justify holding a 66-year old man of impeccable character for nine hours by saying “the RSPCA is leading this investigation”. When did Parliament empower RSPCA officials (all ordinary members of the public) to order our police around like this?
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.