Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Leftist speaks out against Islamic barbarism

About time. The writer is Ed Brayton. If it is the "fat guy from Michigan" whom I have previously mocked, I am pleased to see that he is more objective than at first appeared

On last week's Declaring Independence I had the privilege of doing a brief interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the extraordinarily brave Somali-born woman who works diligently to fight against the barbaric practices of radical Islam. You can listen to that interview here.

Hirsi Ali's story is a remarkable one. She was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, into a Muslim family. At the age of 5, she was forced to undergo a clitorectomy, sometimes called a female circumcision. She was later pledged in an arranged marriage to a distant cousin, which she objected to and fled to avoid. She eventually made her way to the Netherlands where, unsurprisingly, she became a powerful advocate of women's rights.

She ran into controversy when it was revealed that she had lied on her application for political asylum in that country, which she fully admits to doing. It was necessary, she says, to make her already bad situation seem even worse at the time in order to ensure that her application for asylum would be granted. After the resulting fallout, she emigrated to the United States, where she now lives and works as a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

One of the issues that we discussed in our interview was the need for the left in this country to take the lead in advancing a strong and coherent critique of radical Islam. I have long detected a split on the left over this issue, a split between what I call the rationalist left and the relativist left. The relativist left often downplays the barbarism of radical Islam or fails to speak out against it as strongly as, for example, it does against the actions and beliefs of the religious right in America.

Let us start with a few indisputable facts. First, let us acknowledge that radical Islam is the most anti-liberal ideology in the world today. This ideology demeans women in a thousand different ways, denying them an education and anything like freedom or equality. It demands the public stoning of gays and lesbians. It inflicts the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy. It is hard to imagine an ideology more contrary to the ideals of freedom and equality.

Second, let us make very clear that this is not an indictment of all Muslims. Like any large religion, there is not one Islam but many Islams. Some forms of Islam have been humanized by the acceptance and integration of liberal democratic ideas into the larger religion, just as the Enlightenment did the same to most forms of Christianity in the West.

Some of the most powerful voices against the barbarism of the radicals come from Muslim scholars like Muqtedar Khan and Louay Safi of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. And they speak to and for a larger Muslim community that is really no different from the rest of us in seeking a peaceful and just society. Their work is important, and we must embrace it rather than ignore it.

Third, let us recognize that there are voices on the left making this case and that this is not a criticism of all liberals by any means. Christopher Hitchens, for example, has been outspoken both in his attacks on radical Islam and his embrace of moderate Muslims fighting against that radicalism. And while I did not agree with his support of the war in Iraq, which I think fueled the very radicalism that we both oppose, I think he is correct in recognizing both the philosophical and practical danger of that twisted ideology.

But there are others who downplay that threat in various ways. We saw it, for example, in the reaction of author John Le Carre to the Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing "The Satanic Verses." He declared that "there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity" and that "there is no absolute standard of free speech in any society." He further claimed that Rushdie was being "colonialist" by portraying himself as an innocent victim of the fatwa on his life.

We saw it also in the reaction of some on the left to the publishing of those infamous caricatures in a Danish newspaper. One of the most popular liberal bloggers wrote that the publishing of those cartoons was nothing more than "an insult to inflame a poor minority" and that he didn't have "any sympathy for a newspaper carrying out an exercise in pointless provocation."

But this is muddled relativism at its most silly. Those caricatures were pointed criticism of the tendency of radical Islam to respond to such criticism with violence; the fact that the response from radical Islamists was to threaten the lives of the artists and firebomb embassies around the world shows both the importance and the accuracy of such criticism.

Unfortunately, the loudest and most prominent voices in critiquing radical Islam in this country are primarily from the right. Indeed, that is where Ali, who describes herself as a liberal, has found most of her support in this country and why she is employed by a right-wing think tank. This is not a good thing, in my view.

The left must take the lead in making a strong critique of radical Islam and a strong defense of liberal democratic ideals because if we allow the right to do so, that critique will inevitably be intertwined with notions of Christian chauvinism, American exceptionalism, and, in some cases, with imperialism, xenophobia and racism as well. We can and must make those arguments because we can do so in a coherent manner, not bundled up with other noxious views that present their own danger to liberal ideals.

There is no need for any mushy relativism here. The ideology and practice of radical Islam is morally repugnant. The abuse of women and the opposition to freedom and equality are nothing short of barbaric, and we need not mince our words in opposing them. The ideals of a society that respects freedom and equality really are better, they really are worth defending, and progressives should be on the front lines of that battle.


Leading British Labour party politician to attack political correctness

Hazel Blears is to attack the "creeping tendency" of political correctness which has led to Christians being targeted for practising their beliefs. In a hard hitting speech, to be made in the last week of February, the Communities Secretary will suggest that the pendulum has "swung too far" in favour of not offending minorities. Her remarks will be seen as a thinly veiled attack on Harriet Harman, the Commons leader, who has made a series of left wing speeches and announcements in recent months about equal rights for minorities. Ms Harman has faced accusations of manoeuvring herself for the leadership if Labour loses the next election.

It comes after a community nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended from after offering to pray for a patient. The story led to widespread criticism of her employer, North Somerset Primary Care Trust, who later offered Mrs Petrie her job back.

Ms Blears, who last week called on jostling cabinet minsters to "get a grip", will say that public policy-makers are too anxious about offending people and need to be more robust in their approach. She will point to a number of judgements recently which she feels were spurned by an overzealous commitment to political correctness. A text of her speech, released to this paper, said: "This country is proud of our tradition of fair play and good manners, welcoming of diversity, tolerant of others. This is a great strength. "But the pendulum has swung too far. It seems that every week we hear a new story - the nurse suspended because she offered to pray for a patient, the school banning Christmas decorations, the town hall reluctant to fly the Union flag - about people getting into a panic because someone, somewhere, might get offended.

"Worse, at times leaders have been reluctant to challenge absolutely unacceptable behaviour - forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or homophobia - because they are concerned about upsetting people's cultural sensitivities. "This flies in the face of another of our traditions - open debate, rational inquiry, and plain old common sense. "We would do well to be a little less anxious and a little more robust."

Ms Blears will say that minority beliefs and traditions should not go unchallenged in Britain when they break the law or harm others. "There is a line when respect for other cultures is crossed and a universal morality should kick in."

The tough stance from the former Blairite comes as a number of female ministers are said to be considering standing against the left wing Ms Harman if she does go for the leadership. Yvette Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was said to be one minister approached to be a "stop Harman" candidate. However some Labour insiders believe this rumour may be an attempt to disrupt Ms Cooper's husband Ed Balls, a likely candidate in a leadership contest.


British Tories pledge to end police 'caution culture'

The Conservatives have pledged to end the "caution culture" in Britain's police forces and to ensure that all youths who carry out violent attacks are prosecuted. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said he will stop the practice of simply warning youths who are involved in assaults and then sending them on their way. In his first announcement since taking over in the role, Mr Grayling said all those involved in violent attacks or found with knives in city centres would end up behind bars as part of a radical shake-up of policing planned by the Conservatives.

The pledge comes after it emerged that the number of young people given cautions by the police for indictable crimes, including robbery and other violent offences, has increased by 28 per cent in the last five years. Despite Labour promises to crack down on violent attacks, the number of assaults using a knife has risen starkly. Last week, two teenagers were stabbed to death in separate attacks within hours of each other in London.

Mr Grayling said: "If you are found carrying a knife, if you attack a stranger in the street, you should end up in the courts and then behind bars. You should not get a caution, or as I heard recently, a o65 penalty notice for carrying a three foot Samurai sword around. That must stop." Mr Grayling will outline plans this week to give police charging powers of their own so that they can charge youths in custody with offences such as carrying knives rather than referring the cases to prosecutors.

The Tories are also looking to change the police targets system so that issuing someone with a caution does not count as a crime solved, and a case taken to court counts as a bigger success than a caution. Currently, cautions and prosecutions are deemed equally successful outcomes to investigations. Mr Grayling said it was "madness" that cautions for violent attacks had more than doubled since 1998.

In 2007, 60 per cent of under 18s cautioned or convicted for an offence received only a caution, up from 56 per in 2003. There were 75,300 youths cautioned in 2007 compared to 58,600 in 2003. The cautioning rate has increased in all age groups. In 2007, 90 per cent of 10-11 year old offenders dealt with by police were cautioned, compared to 84 per cent in 2003. The rate of 12-14 years olds being cautioned is up by 29 per cent while the number of 15-17 year olds cautioned has increased by 10,000.

Mr Grayling said police were issuing cautions because it meant "case closed, a tick in the box, a crime solved for the official figures to be sent to the Home Office. "That's just not good enough. Giving someone a caution should not be a way of scoring an easy win in the case closed league table. "No wonder young offenders think they can get away with it. That must become a thing of the past."

Despite claiming that there has been an overall fall in the number of people caught carrying knives and that those found guilty of possessing knives were receiving longer sentences the Government has been unable to support this with official figures. The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith apologised to Parliament two months ago for the premature release of data suggesting that police were making headway against knife crime.

In October last year, the Home Office was forced to admit that serious violent crime is much worse than they had been claiming because police forces had been failing to record offences properly. A Home Office spokeswoman said: "As the Home Secretary announced last year, anyone over the age of 16 caught carrying a knife should expect to be prosecuted. Those using knives can expect to go to prison."


An old, old story

Every now and again, some members of the Green/Left try to practice what they preach. It always ends up the same way

They thought they could change the world but what came of their dreams has haunted them ever since... The Universal Brotherhood was Australia's most celebrated alternative community attracting hundreds of young idealists who gave up everything to follow their very own New Age guru. Now 30 years later they're hosting a reunion to confront the sect's surviving leader about the paradise they created. and lost.

Compass on Sunday at 9.30pm on ABC1 charts the rise and fall of this uniquely Australian `cult' through rich film archive and the testimonies of Linda Moctezuma (nee Ward) and others as they prepare for a reunion, 30 years after it all fell apart.

The Universal Brotherhood was a home-grown spiritual movement that became Australia's most successful alternative community. Born in the early 1970s it flourished on a 300 acre farm near the small country town of Balingup, south of Perth. The movement attracted hundreds of young idealists who turned their backs on jobs, mortgages and a safe life in the suburbs. Instead, they cashed in their savings to follow their very own guru, 80-year old Fred Robinson - a self-styled eco-prophet who wanted to pioneer a model community that could save the planet, and mankind!

Robinson espoused a mixed bag of mystical teachings, New Age philosophies and old-fashioned Christian values. He'd also developed his own cosmic vision of the future involving `elder brothers' from outer space coming in UFOs with Christ to take them away if and when catastrophe destroyed the world. "They even bought a property that had an airstrip on it so that the elder brothers would have somewhere to land, and rescue us.

Now, there's only one thing more amazing than him saying that - and that's us believing it!" says Moctezuma who at 18, desperate to escape the insular world of Sydney's northern beaches, became one of the Brotherhood's first converts.

From a handful of pioneers, the Universal Brotherhood quickly grew. Within a year, it was almost completely self-sufficient: its young `disciples' putting into practice all Robinson's principles of biodynamic farming and holistic living. "And we really believed that it was a turning point for mankind. And we were going to be the spearhead, the leaders of this new age. We were creating the model that the whole world was going to be built on. And so we had this great responsibility to do it properly," says Moctezuma.

Among the followers was a young rock star, Matt Taylor. He'd just released a hit record, but sold everything to join the Brotherhood. "Because number one records weren't as important as finding out how the universe worked," says Taylor. On the farm the Brotherhood took care of everyone's food, shelter and clothing. Everything was shared, and everyone ate, played and prayed together. Life in the Brotherhood was deemed "safe and pure". The world outside increasingly viewed as dangerously corrupt.

Believing they had all the answers, the Brotherhood began cutting itself off from the rest of society. TV and radio were banned. And increasingly, control of the group was left to its governing council, a small group of advisers known as the `Centre Core', made up of Robinson's wife Mary and the Brotherhood's young co-founder, Stephen Carthew, a 23-year old from Sydney. "Mary had her belief that she slept at night and she had dreams and God spoke to her, and we then had to follow what God had said to her," says Susan Allwood who'd walked out of a promising fashion career in Melbourne to join the Brotherhood.

As time passed the Centre Core became more hardline, scrutinising the young followers' behaviour, and punishing them for minor misdemeanours or perceived weaknesses. Few dared to confess any doubt, anger or distress. The Brotherhood's utopian dream was only six years old when cracks appeared. The cult's leadership began to turn on some of its most faithful adherents.

By 1978 the New Age dream was all but over. The mood of the times had changed. Triggered by events like the Jonestown massacre, public opinion swung sharply against religious cults. "When Jonestown happened there was a moment where I thought, if Mary had said to us, `We've reached the right vibration; we don't need our bodies any more. We're all going to drink cyanide.' I wonder if we'd have done it?" asks former member Anita Chauvin.

The film follows Anita, Matt, Susan, Linda and others as they prepare for the reunion, searching for resolution to the years they put into the Brotherhood dream; years many have kept hidden, until now. Founder and former leader Carthew will also be at the reunion. He knows he has a lot to answer for and the scene is set for a dramatic showdown.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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