Sunday, September 12, 2010
German chancellor faces Muslim wrath after praising Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Muhammad
German chancellor Angela Merkel praised what she described as 'the bravery' of a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad at an award ceremony honoring his achievements for freedom of speech.
In her speech praising illustrator Kurt Westergaard, 'who has had to fear for his life since the publication of the cartoons in 2005,' Merkel emphasized Wednesday that media freedom is an important element of rights in Europe. 'It does not matter if we think his cartoons are tasteful or not, if we think they are necessary and helping or not,' Merkel said at the ceremony in the city of Potsdam. The question, she said, was, 'Is he allowed to do this? Yes, he is.'
There have been at least three attempted attacks on the 75-year-old Westergaard or his Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, since he and 11 other artists angered Muslims around the world by creating the Muhammad cartoons four years ago. Protesters in Muslim countries have torched Danish and other Western embassies.
Westergaard's cartoon, which he said took 45 minutes to draw, was considered by many Muslims the most offensive of the 12. He has rejected calls to apologize, saying poking fun at religious symbols is protected by Denmark's freedom of speech.
Merkel's appearance at the award ceremony drew criticism from Muslim groups, who perceived it as an endorsement of Westergaard's cartoon. Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of Germany's Muslim Council, told public radio Deutschlandradio that Merkel is honoring the cartoonist who sullied 'our Prophet ... and thereby all Muslims'.
Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected the criticism and said Merkel's message was to underscore the importance of freedom of speech.
Merkel condemned plans by a pastor in the United States to burn the Muslim holy book to commemorate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'If a fundamentalist evangelical pastor in America wants to burn the Quran on September 11, I find that - in a word - disrespectful, also abhorrent and false,' Merkel said.
Westergaard has been under police protection since February 2008, when Danish newspapers reprinted his caricature in a gesture of solidarity after police revealed a plot to kill him. In January, a Somali with a residence permit in Denmark broke into Westergaard's home wielding an ax and a knife, but Westergaard was unhurt.
Westergaard retired from Jyllands-Posten in June.
The BBC completely fails to understand the Tea Party movement
With the smug incomprehension in which it takes so much pride (can’t understand – won’t understand!), the BBC sets about the American Tea Party Movement as if it were a cross between the Klu Klux Klan and the German neo-fascist brigade. Not once in all the demonic depictions I have seen and heard (last week’s Newsnight package was particularly outrageous) have I heard a mention of what the TPM is actually about: taxation. (Note to BBC editors: the movement is named after the Boston Tea Party because it is protesting about the imposition of higher federal taxes and over-weening controls on citizens who believe their voices have been ignored.)
The British generally and the BBC in particular have a real problem understanding the obsessive suspicion in which the power of central government is held in the US. This is not some funny redneck eccentricity: it is fundamental to the Constitution which gives individual states much greater sovereignty than the countries of the European Union enjoy. The states have independent judicial systems (some states have capital punishment, others do not) and separate taxation systems (some have sales taxes, others do not). Only a Supreme Court ruling can over-turn state law by, for example, declaring something (such as abortion) to be a legal right which a state legislature may not deny.
Traditionally there is only one nationally imposed tax - federal income tax – which is designed to pay for those functions that must be carried out by national government. Resistance to the Obama healthcare reforms is as passionate as it is precisely because it imposes a federal requirement to purchase health insurance which seems to contravene the basic economic freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. The BBC obviously finds it impossible to believe that ordinary people could actually take issues like this seriously. (They can only be racists or hillibilly know-nothings.) The Corporation really ought to encourage its correspondents to get out more and talk to some of the articulate Americans who don’t spend their lives in liberal salons.
The media fail to ask WHY Muslims behave so badly
Recall the 2005 report in Newsweek (later retracted) about a US interrogator at Guantanamo flushing a Quran down a toilet that set off violent riots in the Middle East. Recall how the publication of cartoons of Mohamed in a Danish newspaper resulted in much death and mayhem.
It is not unusual for bibles to be confiscated by the omnipresent Saudi authorities (and presumably later destroyed), for synagogues and churches (with bibles therein) to be burned with alarming regularly in the Muslim world. Yet I do not recall a single death or riot resulting from these events. Are not Jews and Christians sufficiently insulted? Are they not similarly committed to their own religion? Do they not also revere their own God?
When Christians or Jews are massacred in riots or by terrorists or suicide bombers, no rampage occurs in the Western World. When Muslims died in the Twin Towers, in restaurant bombings in Israel, in car bombings in Karbala-all at the hands of other Muslims-did Muslim extremists riot the world over? No; a resounding no! Yet the mere desecration of an inanimate Quran, or even the pictorial representation of Muhammad, can set off lethality in the "Muslim street."
To those searching vociferously for an explanation (i.e. an excuse), one must point out that there is no lack of provocations available to any group, culture or religion worldwide. Why is it that the moderate majority of Muslims does not rise up to stop-or at least loudly object to-these supremely over-sensitive killing sprees, irrespective of their personal feelings or anger?
What is it about the extremists' beliefs, politics and support systems that engender such callous disregard for life, where symbols are valued more than human beings? That is what the media, the politicians and the conciliators should understand, and to which they should react.
These are the real questions, the real news that should be on the front page - the elephant(s) in the room to which the media is congenitally blind. At our peril, to be sure.
Peace: The Invention That Doesn’t Work
The eminent historian Sir Michael Howard opened his brilliant essay "The Invention of Peace (Yale University Press, 2001) with a quote from the 19th century conservative thinker Henry Maine, "War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention." Maine was well positioned to make this observation. The attempt to substitute peace as the objective of foreign policy rather than the pursuit of national advantage in a perpetually contentious world was the project of classical liberalism. This movement came to maturity in the years after the Napoleonic Wars, though its roots were in the same Enlightenment tradition that set off a quarter century of conflict with the French Revolution.
Howard traces its core concepts to Immanuel Kant, author of the 1795 essay "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch." Kant set out the three principles that have been common to all liberal policy since: disarmament, free trade and a world federation, often cited as the inspiration for the United Nations. All are aimed at removing the nation-state from the center of global affairs, and shifting the focus of individual allegiance to something other than national citizenship. People are to become “citizens of the world” or simply “consumers” satiated with material decadence and devoid of any communal identity.
The 215 years since Kant’s essay have not been kind to his ideas despite all the ink that has been used to advance them in philosophical circles. Maine made his observation in 1875, after the wars of German and Italian unification had profoundly impacted the European balance of power, and on the eve of a new series of Balkan wars. These conflicts demonstrated a rising feeling of popular patriotism and collective loyalty.
The first disarmament conference was called by Tsar Nicholas II in 1899 and held at The Hague. Behind the flowery rhetoric, everyone knew that Russia’s objective was to slow an arms race with Germany it could not afford. Nothing was accomplished in 1899 or at the Second Hague Conference in 1907. A third conference set for 1915 had to be cancelled because World War I had broken out in 1914. That “war to end all wars” did not do so. The League of Nations and a bevy of disarmament treaties failed to prevent World War II. The United Nations, formed by the victors, has been paralyzed by disputes among the major powers on the Security Council, which the passing of the Cold War has not ended. National, ethnic and religious sentiments are as strong as ever, fueling armed conflict and trade wars. None of Kant’s three pillars of peace have shown any strength because there is no underlying global harmony of interests.
So what are we to make of the Obama administration’s attempt to promote “peace” in the Middle East? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sept. 7, “In the weeks and months ahead, President Obama and I will do everything we can to help advance the cause of a comprehensive peace, not only in the Middle East, but across the world, and inside the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans…..As I said when I welcomed Israeli and Palestinian delegations, peace needs champions on every street corner and around every kitchen table, and not just there, but everywhere.” In the same speech, she mentioned a project called “Partners for a New Beginning” where “influential leaders from the private sector and civil society are to advance opportunities in Muslim communities around the world.” One of the vice chairs is Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola. What could be a more classical liberal notion than the hope that if people just share the same soft drink, they won’t want to shoot at each other!
President Barack Obama would like to join his Democratic predecessors Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in achieving some sort of Middle East “peace” agreement. But he does not seem to understand the nature of the agreements signed in the past between Israel and its neighbors or what the central strategic issue is today. He is stuck in the past when as a child the Arab-Israeli wars were making the headlines.
President Carter’s achievement was the 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel following the1978 Camp David Accords. Egypt recognized Israel and the state of war that had existed since 1948 was ended. The U.S. began economic and military aid to Egypt, making Washington an alliance bridge between the two former adversaries. President Clinton’s achievement was similar; the signing of a treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994. The two treaties signaled the abandonment of the Palestinians by the two Arab governments. The 1993 Oslo Accords set up a framework for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but nothing came of it except to give Jordan cover.
The big strategic change in the region came in 1979 and has become ever more dangerous; the overthrow of the pro-Western Shah of Iran and his replacement by a radical Shiite theocracy that poses a threat to both Israel and the Sunni Arab states.
President George W. Bush understood the current divisions in the regime. He downgraded “peace” talks and worked to build coalitions to counter aggression. Halting Tehran’s regional ambitions became the top priority, not the formation of a Palestinian state. New arms were offered to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, along with coordination of missile defense efforts. When the Hamas terrorist group, backed by Iranian money, weapons and training, took control of Gaza, Egypt and Israel cooperated in blockading the area. And when Israel attacked another Iran-based militia group, Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, the Arab states gave it the diplomatic room it needed. And no Arab state lifted a finger against Israel during its invasion of Gaza in the weeks just before President Obama’s inaugural.
Israel’s action was prescient. Upon taking office, President Obama immediately activated a time machine and shifted American focus from Iran back to Palestine. The diplomatic relic George Mitchell was sent as special envoy to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks. Meanwhile, President Obama offered an olive branch of direct talks to Iran “without pre-conditions.” Tehran, understanding the change in outlook in Washington, has felt no need to trim its sails in any way. Within days of Secretary Clinton’s August 20 announcement of new Israeli-Palestinian talks, Iran began loading Russian fuel rods into its Bushehr nuclear reactor and unveiled a "drone" bomber with a range of more than 600 miles. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) a "messenger of death" to the regime’s enemies. The American response was minimal.
Perhaps the Obama administration is not as naïve as it seems. Certainly Secretary Clinton has taken a harder line in the past, as a Senator and presidential candidate. She has even issued warnings to Iran from her current office, though the White House has not done much to back her up. The talks in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (two men well aware of their identities and interests) did not reach an agreement on anything more than to continuing talking. Maybe it was just a “check the box” exercise. Maybe Netanyahu and Abbas even quietly agreed to work against their common foe, Hamas (with backing from Egypt and Jordan).
But why should people who are not fools, make foolish statements about peace? The test will be whether the Obama administration continues to sit passively as Iran advances its nuclear weapons program and gives support to terrorist groups across the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan where American lives are at risk. Actions speak louder than words. But if there are no actions, then the foolish words have to be taken at face value.
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.
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