July 14, 2010

I’m Glad I Don’t Live in Washington

Believe it or not, what Reuel Marc Gerecht reports about frank discussions of Islam in the Middle East is true:

Throughout the greater Middle East, frank discussions about Islam are easier to have than they are in Washington, D.C.—especially among government officials. Ask someone in the Obama administration about jihad and, unless the official knows the conversation is off the record—and sometimes even if it is off the record—that official likely will become a bit panicked, nonplussed, and try to change the subject.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 4:05 PM
Comments
True and scary. Politically Correct on steroids. This is a major reason nonmuslim countries should generally try to support muslims who are fighting Takfiri extremists versus fight them directly.
Posted by: anan at July 14, 2010 4:25 pm
Haha. Reminds me of the "you can't criticize Israel in the U.S. like you can in Israel" canard. Jeffrey Goldberg has debunked that by printing dozens of journalists and others who criticize Israel and then make it seem like they were the first to do so, boldly speaking "truth to power."

However, as the parties are flipped, we see the situation changes. Remember the Ft. Hood shooting? Before even hearing his name, I heard several reporters say "we just want to say that Islam had NOTHING to do with this!" which I took to mean that I'd soon hear an Islamic name and, yes, radical Islam had something to do with it.

Or White House policy to never use the word "Islam" when discussing the military or foreign policy changes.

Our heads are in the sand.
Posted by: Kyle at July 14, 2010 4:43 pm
and as a second thought, apparently "Islam" should only be mentioned in some silly (and patronizing) context, like redefining NASA's "primary" mission as "making Muslims feel good" about their historical contributions in math and science.
Posted by: Kyle at July 14, 2010 4:48 pm
Going over their "nuanced" talking heads to the electorate that hired them, my question to this administration would be which---specific---principles and their consequent actions in the world today threaten America?

FEET
TO
THE
FIRE
TIME

(My homage to Render---assuming no copyright infringement lawsuit now follows.)
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 4:51 pm
And which Muslims made it this American administration's responsibility to make them feel good about themselves?
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 5:09 pm
Anan, there aren't enough Muslims to fight "takfiris".
Posted by: Ali at July 14, 2010 5:14 pm
Frank discussions about Islam and Jihad are difficult here as well because of political correctitude and the fear of being labeled, by people as wise as fnord or glasnost, as a bigot. When Jihad is mentioned even here at MJT's blog, most commenters studiously avoid involvement, and those that do comment carefully avoid linking Jihad to Islam, or act as if Jihad is only violent combat which only occurs someplace in Asia. The only criticism of Islam seemingly acceptable is that which is carefully qualified as criticism of "Islamism", all the while taking pains to act as if Islam and "Islamism" are barely related.

Jihad is: struggle in any form for the sake of Islam. Fellow American Faisal Shahzad (anyone know who that is?) recently put it:

"jihad, holy fighting in Allah's course, with full force of numbers and weaponry, is given the utmost importance in Islam....By jihad, Islam is established....By abandoning jihad, may Allah protect us from that, Islam is destroyed, and Muslims go into inferior position, their honor is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligation and duty in Islam on every Muslim."

"...You will see that the Muslim world has just started....Islam is coming to the world, inshallah, Islam will spread on the whole world. And the democracy will be defeated, and so was Communism defeated, and all the others isms and schisms will be defeated, and the word of Allah will be supreme, inshallah. And Muslims are gonna do that. And as Allah says in sura 3, verse 110 [of the Qur'an]..."

Is hezbollah "takfiri extremist"? Is the islamic republic of Iran "takfiri extremist" Is the muslim brotherhood "takfiri extremist"? No on all counts, but all of them, as well as anand's bogeymen the "takfiris", along with any muslim group which wishes to impose sharia on anyone who does not wish to follow sharia, should be opposed. In the US that would include CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, MAS, the Muslim American Society, ICNA, the Islamic Circle of North America, ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, NAIT, the North American Islamic Trust (owner of most mosques in US), and more: a long list of nearly every major American Muslim group, all of which feel it is their sacred duty to (eventually) make the US a muslim state, if not always violently.

Muslims who are themselves the target of salafist sunni pronouncements of takfir naturally wish for someone else to do the fighting against those "takfiris". Non-muslims are better off if they do not substitute themselves as the combatants in place of the takfiri-targeted Muslims, and are better off to provide no more than minimal assistance, and never to any sharia run state, such as Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan where the aid is often stolen or siphoned off to private gain, or wasted or used against other opponents.

Part of anand's schtick is to misdirect attention.

The fight against sharia supremacists (a more accurate phrasing than his misleading "takfiri extremist") needs to be joined in Europe, the US, Australia, Canada more than in Iraq or Afghanistan. Let Muslims fight other Muslims with their resources rather than our resources. The Bushie idea, to fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here, demonstrated a basic misunderstanding of the reality that the "they" are not only "takfiri extremists" but are all sharia supremacists, and that those sharia supremacists are present and growing on every continent, presumably except Antarctica.

A frank discussion of Islam would include an understanding that "Islamism" is mainstream Islam, that for most Muslims Islam is not only a private personal faith but a public political movement, and that Islam, as currently understood by most Muslims, is supremacist.

No official in either the Bush or Obama administrations demonstrated awareness of any of this, except perhaps that fired Pentagon adviser Stephen Coughlin.
Posted by: del at July 14, 2010 5:34 pm
del: The only criticism of Islam [here] seemingly acceptable is that which is carefully qualified as criticism of "Islamism", all the while taking pains to act as if Islam and "Islamism" are barely related.

I knew you were going to say that, and you know I think you're wrong. You come across like a person who has read one book (the Koran) and doesn't need to read anything else.

I'd say let's just agree to disagree, but I must add one thing. Anyone who thinks Islam and Islamism are "barely related" doesn't know the first thing about either. And you ought to know better than to assume I'm that stupid.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 5:44 pm
Kyle: here did this NASA meme come from? The only thing i've managed to track down was an interview on al-jazeer with the head? of NASA who said one of the key goals was outreach to the muslim world. Is that were it came from?
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at July 14, 2010 6:07 pm
Del, Others:

Familiarity with, thoughts on this organization?

American Islamic Forum for Democracy:
http://www.aifdemocracy.org/
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 6:14 pm
Yes, it's at the Al-Jazeera site:
http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/talktojazeera/2010/07/201071122234471970.html
at minute 1:20.

It's not the only time he's said it, though (indicating that he wasn't just saying this to Al Jazeera to ham it up to his audience, but rather that this was in fact an Administration goal).

Here is he saying the same thing to engineering students in Florida back in February of this year:
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2010/02/nasa-plans-more-outreach-to-muslim-countries.html
Posted by: Kyle at July 14, 2010 6:23 pm
Paul: American Islamic Forum for Democracy

They look pretty solid to me at a glance. I suppose according to Del they're just infidels and apostates rather than Muslims.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm an atheist. But these people self-identify as Muslims and it's not my place to excommunicate them. The world needs more Muslims like them rather than fewer, and I'm not going to dismiss them as "impious" or whatever.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 6:41 pm
Frank discussion/exchange of views about Islam is difficult when one is not Muslim. Frank discussion about Islam between Muslims is different matter. I am really quite interested whether the author of the quoted article writes about conversation about Islam where Pakistanis talked about their belief, their views on Islam, their view-points on other matters and the author listened only, discussion about Islam between the author and other Muslims OR discussion about Islam between Muslims themselves . Every case is different and I suspect author is writing about the first case.

I do agree (somewhat) with del about takfiris. Takfiri are Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy. Why should I be concerned about that? It is an internal Muslim matter. Takfiris are dangerous to non-believers only because of their strict wahabi/radical shia outlook but they are much more dangerous to other Muslims. On the other hand Islamists (or sharia supremacist) are dangerous mainly to non-believers.
Posted by: ella at July 14, 2010 6:42 pm
MJT,

I don't believe you are that stupid. I would say that some of your commenters are that stupid, however.

I don't play reading list games, but I have read an assortment of things beside the koran and I have posted inoffensive quotations from some of the anthropological sort here in the past.

You, although not as badly as most, are affected by political correctitude. That is not to say you are a pc fool, but most of your blog-allies, such as Kejda Gjermani or Dean Esmay or Charles Johnson, are people who have pronounced the "conservative"-pc version of "takfir" upon thosenastyrightwingers. You are and were smart enough and classy enough to not have been involved directly in that foolishness and nastiness, but I also doubt that you would want that "takfir" pronounced on yourself. My impression is that an explicit statement or known-to-others belief that Islamism is indistinguishable from Islam is a good approximation of the line of demarcation for such a pc-"takfir" pronouncement.
Posted by: del at July 14, 2010 6:43 pm
Belos is an excerpt from their "About" page. I can't for the life of me understand why Westerners--especially leftists but even certain kinds of conservatives--have such a problem with these people and insist on dismissing or insulting them.

------------

American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) was formed in March of 2003 by a group of Muslim professionals in the Phoenix Valley of Arizona. The group's founder is M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D.

He felt that AIFD could formally articulate the fact that in commentary and scholarship that many Muslims believe that they are able to practice their faith more freely and more Islamically (in a personal and secular fashion which is most suited to preserve one's faith) in America than in any other place in the world.

AIFD seeks to make a small contribution to the body of thought which articulates an understanding of Islam which separates religion and state and is in complete harmony with the U.S. Constitution and our citizenship pledge.

Through these founding principles of constitutional, secular (religious freedom free of theocracy and government coercion, and Islamic hegemony), AIFD would also serve as an example of an American Islamic institution which can be a leading voice for liberty-minded Muslims in America in the war on terror. Through regular commentary AIFD will intellectually stand against the religious fanatics who exploit the religion of Islam for a nihilistic, anti-American anti-Western war. In fact a major component in the war on terror is the intellectual deconstruction of the claim Islamo-fascists have upon the religion of Islam. AIFD was formed as an unmistakable expression of American liberty and freedom in an attempt to take back the faith of Islam from the demagoguery of the Islamo-fascists.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 6:45 pm
Thanks, Michael.

I ask for thoughts because this group is new to me.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 6:50 pm
del: You, although not as badly as most, are affected by political correctitude.

No, I'm not. The reason I argue with you is because your description of the problem conflicts with what I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 6:53 pm
Paul,

It's new to me, too, but apparently has been around for a while.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 6:53 pm
"The world needs more Muslims like them"

For those familiar with the film, to borrow Dennis Miller's question, where is the Islamic Serpico? Under the radar maybe?
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 6:57 pm
MJT,
I assume your reference to Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD was intended for me.

I have never insulted nor belittled Jasser's efforts. I have, however, pointed out that he is marginal, fringe, etc. -- not mainstream, in the US Muslim community.

Jasser was one of only two Muslim organization honchos who signed the Former Muslim's United [FMU] pledge of religious freedom: "In the fall of 2009, FMU mailed copies of the “Freedom Pledge,” to more than 111 Muslim American leaders of 50 organizations asking them to repudiate the Shariah law consensus permitting execution of apostates from Islam. Only two pledges were returned-one from Dr. M. Zhudi Jasser of the American Forum for Islam and Democracy and the other from Dr. Ali Ayami, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Saudi Arabia." (from New English Review).
Posted by: del at July 14, 2010 6:59 pm
del: I have never insulted nor belittled Jasser's efforts. I have, however, pointed out that he is marginal, fringe, etc. -- not mainstream, in the US Muslim community.

Perhaps, but so is CAIR. The only reason CAIR looks big is because it was boosted by the Bush Administration and the media.

Everyone likes to pretend that CAIR is the "voice of the American Muslim," but it's not. Reminds me of the Western idiots who show up in Lebanon thinking Hezbollah is the authentic "voice of the people," even though Hezbollah can't win an election.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 7:08 pm
Seems as misleading and futile as naming a Voice of Iraq.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 7:14 pm
understanding of Islam which separates religion and state

This is the theological leap that Islam must make.
It won't make that leap until after it loses a major war (not some minor PR armistice with Israel).

The West is at war with Islam (posted in prior thread). We probably won't win if we're not fighting.

Del:
for most Muslims, Islam is not only a private personal faith but a public political movement, and that Islam, as currently understood by most Muslims, is supremacist.

The thing to remember about politics -- gov't uses force. Political movements want to use force (or stop its use, forcibly).

Solutions, even radical ones, will be much more advocated, seriously, after Tel Aviv is nuked.
Posted by: Tom Grey at July 14, 2010 7:14 pm
We have this thing here, an open media, where anything that gets said can be and usually will be reported and used against the speaker in some way, fairly or unfairly. Sometimes it happens when the speaker isn't even meaning his remarks for public consumption.

People in the media live for the stray comment so it can be hyped and hooted about in the papers and on TV. If I were a government official in this country I'd be really careful about what I had to say on anything remotely controversial, too. Because it's all about the gotcha.

And I doubt there are too many government officials in the Middle East eager to have these frank discussions about Islam reported in their media either. Since I can't read Arabic or Farsi or Pashto, I don't know if there's any of that reporting going on or not.
Posted by: Sally at July 14, 2010 8:24 pm
Sally: I doubt there are too many government officials in the Middle East eager to have these frank discussions about Islam reported in their media either.

Good point.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2010 8:32 pm
Tom Grey:

Tel Aviv will not be nuked!
Posted by: semite5000 at July 14, 2010 9:05 pm
Me: Sir, in your view, what threats does America face in the world today? Without revealing names or sources, of course, for security reasons, and avoiding generalities such as "hatred" or "intolerance," what is the nature of any threats?

"That's too controversial a topic for an elected (or appointed) official to discuss in public."

As an American (and your employer, Sir) this would rub me the wrong way; I'm not asking for a strategic overlay or a tactical battle plan.

From government officials in Middle Eastern countries? Maybe understandable, I assume; I've never been there, so I don't know. To borrow Ella's term, they're internal matters.
But from DC, to Americans? Unacceptable.

"But you know how the press misinterprets things." I'll take your words at face value, Sir; my only agenda is fact acquisition to educate myself. If I ever need the press to do my thinking I'll stop voting.

The more I dwell on this the more irritating it seems. So, back to all of you. And thanks for the input.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 14, 2010 9:32 pm
Sorry for the off-topic post, but Lee Smith has a great article in Tablet magazine:

Hollow Men
Why Israel’s enemies will always be the darlings of Western intellectuals

http://www.tabletmag.com/news-and-politics/39355/hollow-men/
Posted by: Max at July 15, 2010 6:04 am
Attempting to define another persons religion for them is more then just rude. It is an act of extreme prejudice with very dark and fairly recent precedents. While there may be a time and a place for such generalities, wartime is not it.

In war individual acts count for far more then any possible generalities. Such sweeping generalities tend to obscure and deter those who may not be all that committed to remaining trapped in a seventh century hell.

However...

We are looking at a total population estimated at upwards of 1.2 billion individuals. If just ten percent of those individuals are of the extremist genocidal variety, then that is already far larger then the entire population of Nazi Germany in 1938. Ten percent is a bare minimum at best and would include the national armies, paramilitaries, and proxy terrorist groups of several sometimes competing nations.

=

There is no center, and hasn't been one since the Ottoman's collapsed and likely will never be another one if history is to be the judge. Mecca, like Rome, or Jerusalem, is little more then a theologically enforced tourist trap.

If there was a center the war would have been over already.

There are forty-seven Muslim majority nations. Some are considerably more “Muslim” then others. Out of those forty-seven, only six of those states are considered (by the UN and others) to be “Islamic” states (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Mauritania). Two of those states combined (Iran and Pakistan) have well over one million troops in their respective military's.

Defining who the enemy is and what their goals are is the first and most important step towards victory. In this case, like so very many before it, the enemy has kindly and repeatedly self-defined themselves and clearly articulated what their goals are. Iran declared war on the U.S. in 1979 and has since repeated that declaration several times. Pakistan's proxy terrorist groups make repeated declarations of their goals. Both Iran and Pakistan's proxies operate and co-operate with and alongside of the many various Muslim Brotherhood (which declared war on the U.S. In 1998) front groups across numerous theaters.

It would seem prudent to heed the enemies own declarations of hatred, ethnic cleansing, and intended genocide.

PICK
AND
CHOOSE,
R
Posted by: Render at July 15, 2010 7:04 am
@semite500, if it's not, it won't be because the US Army or Air Force under Obama stopped Iran from getting and using a nuke.

OTOH, Islamic Pakistan already does have nukes, and Tel Aviv hasn't been nuked yet from them.

Politicians don't want to discuss this, because the increasingly clear threat calls for stronger actions, or else acceptance of Iran getting a nuke.

"They probably won't use it, even if they do get one." By what probability? 40%? 20% (Russian roulette level)? 10%? 1%?

There is no "correct" number for a future probability of any one-time event. From 1% to 99%, it could happen, or not, and no actual events proves that one probability was better than another. However, it provides a reasonable measure of difference of opinion.

@del, what is your opinion of Tel Aviv (any Israeli city) getting nuked within 5 years after Iran gets a working nuke?

@anan, what is yours?

(Michael?)

My own opinion is now up to 60% -- the result (if not purpose) of the international condemnation of Israel is to goad the Islamic decision makers into pulling the trigger, or else being "shamed" for being too weak.

With this level of fear, it's understandable that I'd support stronger US sanctions, including bombing Iran's nuke making places, and also their refineries, and also their trade shipping. Already.

Without waiting for the (no genocide in Darfur, no effective action) UN to decide.

I'd also support extreme measures by Israel. Including surrender and/or evacuation, as well as pre-emption.

But I've had similar fears since 2004, even expressed here on Michael's blog ... and the worst hasn't happened yet. Maybe it won't, ever!

(Maybe the SS trust fund won't ever go negative!)

Iran could easily and quickly change -- the elections showed that the regime is weak. The Berlin Wall came down fast. Iran could change.
But Tianamen square hasn't meant democracy in China yet.

Yet another fantasy -- Israel supports Iranian Kurds in a Declaration of Independence (a two state solution for Iran - Kurds!), despite Turkey's huge objection.

But most folks here "know" that none of these extreme possibilities are too likely; tho perhaps Iran getting and using a nuke, or Israel attacking just before then, seem more likely than many other possibilities.

Politicians don't want to think about it, and don't want me, or you, or anybody, to think about it. Then, when something extreme happens ... "Nobody foresaw it!" What a surprise!
Posted by: Tom Grey at July 15, 2010 7:07 am
Barry Rubin interview with Zayno Baran about moderate Islam: http://www.gloria-center.org/blog/2010/07/interview-zeyno-baran-moderate-muslims
Posted by: semite5000 at July 15, 2010 7:57 am
Tom and others, here's Barry Rubin on why Israel should not attack Iran ... or at least not yet.

http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/2010/07/why-israel-shouldnt-attack-iranian-nuclear-installations
Posted by: semite5000 at July 15, 2010 8:00 am
"Anan, there aren't enough Muslims to fight "takfiris".
Posted by: Ali at July 14, 2010 5:14 pm "

There are many muslims who want to fight the Takfiris. Unfortunately, the nonmuslim world doesn't support them sufficiently or show sufficient outrage at massacres by Takfiri against fellow muslims. Aren't all attacks against civilians equally abominable and immoral?

Where anti Takfiri muslims exist, they should be supported. In what parts of the world do you think there aren't enough muslims willing to fight Takfiris?

[Maybe Syria, Gulf Arabs, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia? Even here, I think many muslims want to resist the Takfiris.]
Posted by: anan at July 15, 2010 9:27 am
This is the moderate Islam I see.

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-strange-%e2%80%94-and-tragic-%e2%80%94-case-of-nagla-imam/?singlepage=true

That aside,

What bugs me, is that from what I understand, Qu'ran says Jewish people are evil, demonic things that should be destroyed, along with other topics such as promoting slavery, suppression of non-Muslims, etcetera, and is considered the Word of God (Allah).

If they Qu'ran is the Word of Allah, or as Wikipedia put it, "verbal book of divine guidance and direction for mankind, and consider the original Arabic verbal text to be the final revelation of God," then if you say some thing like women have rights, or Jews aren't evil, or even Jihad, then aren't you denying the Word or saying it is in error?

I mean, even giving people not Muslim, or part of the Dhimmi, equal rights is equating that all people, just not Muslims are seen equal in the eys of Allah, which is counter to the teaching of the Qu'ran? Also in so declaring, you are elevating non-Muslims and removing the special status of Muslims.

In contradicting the teachings of Muhammad, as given to him by Allah, aren't you then saying what Muhammad was given was not the truth and he was in error? Isn't this why those that don't practice Sharia are called apostate? Isn't Sharia basically just putting into practice what the Qu'ran states no matter your Islamic particular faith alignment?

Isn't contradicting the Word of Allah saying it's not the word of Allah or was misinterpreted by Muhammad which means he made an error?
Posted by: miscellaneous at July 15, 2010 9:42 am
"There are many muslims who want to fight the Takfiris. Unfortunately, the nonmuslim world doesn't support them sufficiently"

The West has been supporting anti-Takfiris since the Brits supported the Hashemites against their other stooges, the al-Sauds, in World War I. Despite the anti-Takfiris being far more heavily funded, the anti-Takfiris failed. The bottom line appears to be that Takfiris are willing, like barbarians, to live and die by violence, rejecting all non-sharia political authority, whereas anti-Takfiri Muslims want to live and prosper and prefer a more peaceful environment with, if not good governance, then good relations with their neighbors.

The obvious solution for the anti-Takfiris is to train and maintain regular armies. However, a regular army in a state with a political system not well grounded by history or tradition is practically an invitation to a coup, whose leaders, if they are up to seizing power, then face exactly the same problems. So such an army tends to be commanded either by incompetents or close relatives of the commander-in-chief who are more interested in the fruits of power than courage in battle.

The Hashemites were rescued by the British, retreated to Palestine, and (amazingly) were rewarded for their services by the Brits awarding them 70% of the territory allocated by the League of Nations and Caliph Mehmed VI for a Jewish homeland.

Once they had used them to conquer Arabia from the Hashemites, the Sauds solved their Takfiri problem by teaming with the British to obtain armored cars and machine gun thousands of Ikhwan (who were mounted on horses and armed only with rifles) to death and compel the others to submit.

So yes, with enough support it can be done. But maybe it's better and cheaper in the long run to throw the table and build new political structures with broader public support and greater stability. In Lebanon that has failed; we'll see about Iraq.
Posted by: Solomon2 at July 15, 2010 10:03 am
Misc: if you say some thing like women have rights, or Jews aren't evil, or even Jihad, then aren't you denying the Word or saying it is in error?

It depends. Sometimes that's true. The Koran contradicts itself, though, and is somewhat flexible for those who want it to be. A Kurdish Iraqi once said to me, "I have read the Koran in its original language, and I know it's more flexible than most Arab imams admit." Make of that what you will.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 15, 2010 11:17 am
For what it's worth, I think Render's comment above is dead-on.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 15, 2010 11:21 am
Tom Grey: what is your opinion of Tel Aviv (any Israeli city) getting nuked within 5 years after Iran gets a working nuke?

I don't know.

I'd bet against it ever happening, and I'd be willing to travel to Israel even after Iran gets a bomb and risk getting nuked myself.

That said, I don't think the chances are zero.

It's possible that Iran has no intention of ever nuking Israel but will end up doing so anyway as a last-ditch desperate act in a war.

You're right that it's impossible to gauge its probability, but I'd say even one percent odds are unacceptable.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 15, 2010 11:25 am
"heed the enemies own declarations"

But what is the probability? With threat sources this numerous and dispersed, it becomes "any." Prepare accordingly; to borrow a term in vogue in America, plan comprehensively; history has had too much to say already about hoping it's a bluff.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 15, 2010 2:09 pm
The probability goes up extremely if Iran gets a nuke and the government feels threatened either internally or externally. There is no way to judge with absolute assurance a government who is that far fundementally right and follows 7th century ideologies and mysticisms. Containment, sanctions and flat out wishful thinking will not be the answer to the neocons in washington who don't want to see iran get nuclear capabilities. So the answer is in the deterrence of that probablitity.
Posted by: Brian at July 15, 2010 2:44 pm
"I'd bet against it ever happening, and I'd be willing to travel to Israel even after Iran gets a bomb and risk getting nuked myself."
Well, I'll bet against it as well - basically, Arrow 3 is better than Shihab 3.
I think it's highly possible that rabid anti-Israeli rhetoric is basically a smokescreen, and real (and achievable) goal for Iran is domination over Gulf states, Saudi Arabia included.
Posted by: rabbit256 at July 15, 2010 2:55 pm
Michael J. Totten wrote:

"The Koran contradicts itself . . . and is somewhat flexible for those who want it to be. A Kurdish Iraqi once said to me, 'I have read the Koran in its original language, and I know it's more flexible than most Arab imams admit.' Make of that what you will."

The Kurd's remark implies that Qur'anic interpretation is up to the individual Muslim, but I doubt that this sort of 'protestant' approach fits Islam. If this were the case, then shariah wouldn't be, in principle, binding upon Muslims.

Moreover, the Kurd's remark ignores the fact that Islam is not based on the Qur'an alone but also upon hadith and sunna, so one would need to know more about these to decide if Islam is truly flexible. On the Qur'an alone, stoning wouldn't be enforced since it's not in the (current) text, but it's found in these other two sources.

And even speaking of the Qur'an alone, one needs to consider abrogation (naskh), in which the "sword verses," for instance, abrogate many of the more peaceful-sounding verses.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
Posted by: Horace Jeffery Hodges at July 15, 2010 3:52 pm
I don't normally do large cut-n-pastes so my apologies in advance...

===

"My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants. The Qur'an claims for itself that it is 'mubeen,' or clear, but if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Qur'anic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Qur'an is not comprehensible, if it can't even be understood in Arabic, then it's not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur'an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not-there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on."
-Dr Gerard Puin (on the Sana'a documents)

===

A book of men, written by men, to control other men. Nothing more, nothing less.

Religion is the oldest form of politics.
-Render

===

With all due respect Mr. Hodges, I don't need to consider anything beyond "kill the Jews." That, and that alone, is quite sufficient for me and mine.

ALAMO
ALAMO,
R
Posted by: Render at July 15, 2010 4:55 pm
Render, you seem to think that you are disagreeing with me over something, but I don't quite see what.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
Posted by: Horace Jeffery Hodges at July 15, 2010 5:04 pm
Mr. Hodges: No disagreement was intended on your points, merely boiling things down to the most relevant to myself.

If I had wanted to be disagreeable I would have pointed to your blog linking to the Gates of Vienna blog.

CROSSES
TO
BARE,
R
Posted by: Render at July 15, 2010 6:07 pm
Hello Michael
What is your take on the laws against apostasy in force in almost Muslim nations? The apostasy issue is very sensitive, and I would be curious to hear your opinion on why these laws are still vigorously enforced.
Even though only a few Muslim nations actually have the death penalty for apostasy, all officially Muslim nations discriminates against nonmuslims including apostates in their civil law. Dhimmitude is still very official policy in all Muslims nations, and even supposedly liberal Muslims approve of legal discrimination against nonmuslims.
I know that you don't have high regards for Andrew Bostom, but his book Legacy of Jihad provides a concise and chilling account of how nonmuslims fared under Muslim rule.
Posted by: JohnM at July 15, 2010 6:09 pm
OT
@ Solomon2

I don't understand you - Do you mean that Iranian pasdaran (revolutionary guards) Hezbollah or Hamas are takfiris? If so you are quite wrong, because they are no. Hamas and Hezbollah talks and takes money from shia Muslims or from Syria (which is ruled by alawis). And it is further from their collective mind to call shia or alawis - non-muslims.
On the other hand if Hezbollah, Hamas or pasdaran are not takfiri what do you mean by saying The bottom line appears to be that Takfiris are willing, like barbarians, to live and die by violence, rejecting all non-sharia political authority, whereas anti-Takfiri Muslims want to live and prosper and prefer a more peaceful environment with, if not good governance, then good relations with their neighbors.

MJT

"Reminds me of the Western idiots who show up in Lebanon thinking Hezbollah is the authentic "voice of the people," even though Hezbollah can't win an election."
I don't agree. Whether we want it or not they are "the authentic voice of majority of shia people in Lebanon." It does not mean that USA/EU representatives must [or should] talk with them or acknowledge them, nevertheless I think it is mistake to refuse to see some trends in Lebanon. As you wrote Hezbollah can't win election but then the conservatives in States also did not win election although they have people in Senate....... Hezbollah also have people in Lebanese parliament.

@ Render

I hate when people give bad data. There NOT 47 Muslim countries but 57 and NOT 6 Islamic states but 9. Not to mention that in 14 states Islam IS state religion and the constitution of some of these countries says (the Egyptian) that Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation.
And that country IS NOT called an Islamic state---go figure ;-)

Quran - A book of men, written by men, to control other men. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tell that to the Muslim believers, not to the unbelieving westerners. IN this case unbelieving westerners hardly count.
Posted by: ella at July 15, 2010 6:33 pm
JohnM: What is your take on the laws against apostasy in force in almost Muslim nations?

I'm against them, obviously. And though they don't exist in all Muslim nations, every Muslim nation is backward compared with Western nations. I don't know if I should expect to see these laws struck down in my lifetime or not. I'm not holding my breath.

I know that you don't have high regards for Andrew Bostom...

That's mostly because he attacks and insults me. I never even heard of him until he declared his own personal jihad against me. I am not going to read his books. Life is too short and my reading list is too long already.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 15, 2010 6:49 pm
Ella: Whether we want it or not they are "the authentic voice of majority of shia people in Lebanon."

Most Lebanese Shias, yes. Most Lebanese people, no.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 15, 2010 6:50 pm
Ella:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim_majority_countries

Yes, I know it's Wiki. But that wikilink appears to be well sourced and footnoted (for the moment at least). Its sources include the UN, the CIA's World Factbook, and Cambridge University among others.

And Ella, when I wrote that line I was rather loosely paraphrasing Professor Gerard Puin. It isn't my place to tell the believers anything about their beliefs. But I will point out that like Bill Roggio, MJT does have a readership among the believers.

http://www.amazon.com/Among-Believers-Islamic-V-S-Naipaul/dp/0394711955

SMOKE
SIGNALS,
R
Posted by: Render at July 15, 2010 6:53 pm
Personal frustration, maybe shared: do we have anything less "community organized" than Wikipedia for references? If someone's business reputation is on the line they have an incentive to be reliable.

Oh, unless it's "the news."

"But we're just fallible humans---with feelings too, you know."

Ebenezer Scrooge said it best: "Bah, humbug!"
Posted by: Paul S. at July 15, 2010 11:10 pm
Don't let life turn you into a curmudgeon, waiting for that first cloud, souring your enjoyment of a clear blue sky.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 15, 2010 11:29 pm
Case in point: "Its sources include the UN..."

Sorry, Render; nothing personal.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 16, 2010 1:27 am
"UN Moves Forward to Implement Goldstone Report"
Anne Bayefsky
July 14, 2010
weeklystandard.com
http://tinyurl.com/2fsak6h

"This second rendition of Goldstone was crafted by a March 2010 resolution of the Human Rights Council. That resolution first declares that Israel – and only Israel – committed “unlawful acts” in the Gaza war"...In the many resolutions on the Gaza war from the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council no mention is ever made of “Hamas,”
Posted by: Paul S. at July 16, 2010 1:48 am
"no mention is ever made of “Hamas,”

Missed those videos of the rocket launchers tucked in tight next to the school, I guess.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 16, 2010 1:55 am
Ah...

But you see, all census figures regarding religion, those that do exist, are notoriously inaccurate. All, to a lesser or greater degree.

It's a wise person that recognizes the UN's systematic lack of veracity. Wiser still the person that expects the CIA to lie to them, that's part of what we pay them to do, and they do it so very well and so very often. Wisest yet is the person that knows that universities, including the illustrious Cambridge, are no paragons of truth telling. Modern universities, outside of the hard sciences, are far more interested in blunt assembly line mass indoctrination then they are in true education.

I'm well aware that the Organisation of Islamic States boasts 57 member states (some of whom aren't exactly states and others that aren't exactly Muslim majority), plus five observer nations, and at least one terrorist group (by name) the MNLF.

I'm also aware that our President somehow considers the U.S. to be a Muslim nation.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyharnden/9959057/Barack_Hussein_Obama_US_one_of_the_largest_Muslim_countries_in_the_world/

I chose the lesser number, as reported by the Wikilink, for the same reason I intentionally minimized my (own) 10% estimation of the number of genocidal freaks contained within those combined nations. It was already enough to make the point.

The total German population of 1938 is something of an estimate as well. Some sources state as low as 55 million, others as high as 79 million. What with all the coming (of annexations and anschlussing) and goings (of ethnic cleansings and purging) combined with the war time damage to the usually meticulous German record keeping this shouldn't be all that surprising.

79 million is far less then 10% of 1.2 billion.

And I actually feel the percentage of genocidal freaks is much closer to 25% at the moment, or one quarter of the total Muslim population. But I also recognize that not all of those 55 or 79 million Germans were Nazi's...

===

I did repeatedly screw up Professor Puin's name though. It's Gerd, not Gerard...doh.

WEEKS
OF
MONDAYS,
R
Posted by: Render at July 16, 2010 4:00 am
Render wrote:

"If I had wanted to be disagreeable I would have pointed to your blog linking to the Gates of Vienna blog."

I wouldn't have even realized that this might be disagreeable. I also link to LGF . . . and a lot of other sites.

I'm sure that there's always something to disagree with everywhere, but I accept responsibility only for my own writings.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
Posted by: Horace Jeffery Hodges at July 16, 2010 5:11 am
I have to doubly disagree, Michael:
You're right that it's impossible to gauge its probability, but I'd say even one percent odds are unacceptable.

(1) If "probability" means some objective Law of Large Numbers multiple trials of similar independent events (a statistics approach), then of course there is no such objective number (like coin toss).

If, however, "probability" is merely an opinion, or Bayesian prior, then everybody can have one.
(This is the decision analysis approach.)
In fact, I claim we all do have such probability guesses -- and a big part of disagreement is about what that "guestimate" or hunch or feeling is.

Because the action indicated is likely to be different if the guess is 1% or 10% or 60%.

(2) Hillary Clinton also said about allowing Iran to get nukes: "it's unacceptable" (and the UN has said the same thing about genocide).
Yet, when it's a choice between war or "acceptance", I believe, now, that the Obama admin will accept Iranian nukes rather than fight before Iran gets them.

And, because they don't want to lie any more, but also don't want fight, they'd rather not talk about it at all.

Demonizing Israel is so much easier -- now wonder it's even in fashion!
Blah.

We need a 5 step, or 10 step, or 2 step "path to war" ultimatum, from Obama to Iran.
Stop preparing to make nukes, or ELSE:
serious, forced based actions.

Like: real blockade of all ships.
enforce no-fly zone, ending Iran air freedom.
Begin bombing oil distribution points.
Begin bombing nuclear research centers.

Hmm, "begin bombing" -- sounds like begin the war.
I think it's better to start it before Iran gets nukes, than waiting until after.
But I think we're going to live thru the interesting history of afterward ... unless Israel pre-emptively strikes Iran.

I see the demonization of Israel as serving two points: a) making it easier for DC politicians to say that stopping Iran's nuke program is not worth war, and b) making it more clear to Israel that it is on its own, goading it into attacking before it's obvious to all that the US has betrayed Israel.

@anan, are you not willing to explicitly state your probability guess as to Iran's willingness to nuke Israel, if it gets nukes?
Posted by: Tom Grey at July 16, 2010 7:42 am
"@anan, are you not willing to explicitly state your probability guess as to Iran's willingness to nuke Israel, if it gets nukes?" Hopefully the Green Revolution wins in Iran quickly. If so, the probability of Israel getting nuked from Iranian sources is insignificant compared to the probability of Israel getting nuked from Pakistani sources.

In my view, the Pakistani Taliban/AQ linked nexus pose the largest security threat to Israel. Remember that they have killed some 7 thousand or more Pakistani security forces, and mowed down one of Pakistan's most elite heavy mechanized army battalions despite its CAS.
Posted by: anan at July 16, 2010 8:34 am
Mr. Hodges,

That would be why I didn't mention it in the first place. It's your house, you invite in who you want.

GoV openly aligned themselves with the British BNP and Belgian VB not too very long ago. Neither BNP nor VB have broken with David Duke or Pat Buchanan. And that's about as disagreeable as one can get to Jews.

Charles Johnson (LGF), whatever his other mistakes, was right about GoV, BNP, and VB.

I know this because I was registered at LGF when it happened. I was there.

Bostom, Spencer, and Geller were wrong (about GoV, BNP, and VB). And I think Bostom has come to that conclusion himself recently (about the little king), whether or not he admits it publicly.

===

Anan - You know the Iranian Greens offer no change with regards Israel's political status vi-a-vis Iran. If Pakistan has a functional nuke, it was made in China, none of the AQ Khan tests have worked as advertised, all fizzled.

The Taliban don't travel well outside of their own regions. But they, along with LeT, do provide one of the larger pools of manpower for al-Q and the TTP at the moment.

Unless you are talking about a different event...

The TTP didn't exactly mow down that Pak battalion and that battalion wasn't exactly "mechanized" by most western definitions.

One reserve tank platoon with elderly T-59's and two companies of good quality infantry mounted in unarmored trucks. Tanks leading in column, they drove into an ambush in broad daylight, broke and ran, tanks still leading to the rear. Their close air support, in the form of a pair of AH-1 Cobra's, arrived late and only managed to cover the retreat. That video is still in the LWJ archives, complete with the observations of horrified western military (and yours truly).

Talib/al-Q successes against the Pak military have far more to do with the Pak military/intel establishments direct support of the Talib/al-Q then it does with anything else. The odds of success are very low when the enemy already knows where you are going and what route you are taking.

===

Assuming Iran gets its hands on a truly functional (non-AQ Khan design) nuke, I would put the odds of their using it on Israel at no less then 75% and as soon as possible. For much the same reasons Saddam thought he needed to and could get away with invading first Iran, and then Kuwait.

They are insane enough to think that it would improve their leadership place in the Islamic world and cement their grasp on power within Iran itself and they have said so, several times already.

I have zero doubt that they think our current Organizer-in-Chief would do nothing in retaliation. Because I don't think he would either.

DEMARCATION,
R
Posted by: Render at July 16, 2010 3:09 pm
This notion of what is, maybe isn't, could be, sort of "unacceptable" begs, on bended knees, some follow up questions. And I don't have to see what's in your hand, just feel assured that it has teeth and you're ready to use it. But, having seen what "unacceptable" was (not) for the Bush administration, and remembering Sec. Clinton's husband describing what "is" is or isn't, I'm concluding that "unacceptable" = wait and see. Which is unacceptable to me.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 16, 2010 3:14 pm
Links don't imply agreement. I don't support the BNP, I have differences of opinion from the GoV, and I have serious questions about VB.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
Posted by: Horace Jeffery Hodges at July 16, 2010 3:48 pm
Tom Grey,

You asked me above,"@del, what is your opinion of Tel Aviv (any Israeli city) getting nuked within 5 years after Iran gets a working nuke? "

I can't give a quantitative percentage. Overall, I would say Iran wants nuclear weapons in order to threaten and intimidate Israel, Arab states, Europe and really the entire planet, more than it wishes to actually use them.

Unfortunately, however, the twelver shiites have a particularly apocalyptic theology which does push them toward the use of nuclear weapons in order to bring out their "mahdi" and a supposed paradisiacal shia-shariah ruled planet.

So, there is a non-zero chance that they would use nuclear weapons, and that possibility is greater than that of any other regime on the planet using nuclear weapons in a first strike, even, I think, more likely than North Korea.

Although the Iranian regime probably hopes to use the weapons to intimidate the Arab states more than to intimidate Israel, it seems to me that the most likely actual use would be against Israel.

To answer your question then, I would not be surprised if the Iranian regime attempted to nuke Israel within 5 years of developing an operational weapon, but I would say it a little less likely than it is more likely, since even in Iran's ruling clique, there must be some people who aren't completely invested in their lunacy. One hopes.

If Iran succeeds, I think a minor bit of cosmic justice, after such a travesty, would be for the winds to blow toward Egypt and for Mohamed el-Baradei to therefore die a slow agonizing death from radiation.
Posted by: del at July 16, 2010 7:30 pm
And what emboldened adventurism might unchecked Iranian nuclear aspirations encourage in America's part of the world? The hemisphere's drug thugs alone, along with their helpful regional "friends," already represent serious problems.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 16, 2010 7:59 pm
@ Render

Well, I did check wiki and I am somewhat confused. I agree, I made mistake re Islamic countries. I assumed because OIC does have 57 member states all of them must be Muslim majority. They are not. My bad. On the other hand Islamic States are different matter.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_state-established_religions#Islamic_states
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_world#Islamic_states
It seems that even wiki is confused ;-)
Posted by: ella at July 16, 2010 8:47 pm
"Missed those videos of the rocket launchers tucked in tight next to the school, I guess."

Not to mention the call for genocide in the charter.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at July 16, 2010 10:53 pm
Being confused by Wiki is a normal, and healthy reaction. I assume some contributors are honest reporters of fact. But which ones, minus some examinination of their track records? Without doing fact checking ourselves (assuming 1. we have the time and are willing to put in the effort and 2. we find other sources we have some confidence in,) the Internet makes it far too easy to make claims that only such time and effort will either knock down or let stand.

A better approach may be impossible or, at least, impractical. However, I'd pay a reasonable subscription fee if one exists.
Posted by: Paul S. at July 17, 2010 1:21 am
This post, baffles, Mike, especially because and in light of the fact that you see eye to eye, with, say, render.

This isn't all that complicated. The fact that government officials don't want to discuss the Islamic side of Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with any unawareness of it or "pretending it doesn't exist", and everything to do with not doing Al-Quieda's work for it.

One popular line of thought among the keyboard commandos in your comment section is that the version of Islam practiced by Al-Quieda is the only real version of Islam, the only possible or accurate reading of the Quran, the "real" Islam, etc etc. Fanatical anti-muslim whackjobs and fantatical salafist whackjobs basically agree on this. And, as you know, it's not right.

The opposite extreme is that there is no capacity whatsoever for an advocate of violence to find support or validation within the tenets of Islam; there is no possible or practical mutual reinforcement of violent terrorism and any possible interpretation of Islam at all. This is equally false and absurd.

In between is a vast middle ground of uncertainty and ignorance. The vast majority of muslims in the world are unlikely to even have a coherent position on this at all, and of those that do, many of them have a low emotional investment in it. They may have some negative attitudes towards America because we're big and rich and there's a lot of news stories where we're killing Muslims. They may have a vague sense that standing up for your beliefs is a good thing, and a suspicion that the US wants to take Islam away from them somehow, define it as a thing to be ashamed of, etc, and they're not likely to appreciate it, because hey, the message is "you and everyone you know is evil". This set of beliefs has a lot of room left to harden and become more extreme before we get anywhere near going out and joining a nonlocal conflict.

Whenever the US says "Islamism is evil", there will be a blowhard on a street corner in Cairo interpreting it as "US says Islam is evil", and "US says you and everyone you know is evil".

This is a bad message upon which to attempt to avoid the widening of a war that is overwhelmingly cheaper and less bloody the less it is widened.

I work with a lot of academic research on the relationships between religious belief and violence, oriented at the ME. Academic researchers are in no way whatever cowed about investigating these relationships. And government officials read the reports and get the picture.
I've never encountered censorship on this issue anywhere in my life.

But I have no doubt that no one in the USG wants to talk to the press about a bunch of leading questions about how Islam is an important part of terrorism. There is no value whatsoever in communicating that message whether or not it is true.

Political conservatives, mindless hawks, and obsessives with the Great Freedom/Islam war Of The Future hate the idea that we're tailoring every official word of the U.S. government to avoid pissing currently nonviolent Muslims off and widening the war. You see, they want the war widened.

They have this feeling that filling our media with discussions about relationships between Islam, violence and evilness will make the War on Terror somehow easier to fight, more serious, deepen our commitment somehow. But frankly, the U.S.'s commitment is pretty fucking deep.

They want to widen the war in order to, in their minds, better win it. But they're fools. Widening the war is the opposite of winning it, and the costs of US rhetoric associating any form of Islam with terrorism in any way are high. That's just what Al-Quieda wants, to bind Islam and terrorism together into an inseverable whole. One part of fighting that idea is starving it of fuel.

The study of relationships between religious belief, Islam, and terrorism continues just fine behind closed doors and in specialized communities that don't get back to Al-Jazeera - or CNN.
Posted by: glasnost at July 18, 2010 6:55 pm
glasnost,

Could you please provide some examples or references to substantiate your assertion: "I work with a lot of academic research on the relationships between religious belief and violence, oriented at the ME. Academic researchers are in no way whatever cowed about investigating these relationships. And government officials read the reports and get the picture.
I've never encountered censorship on this issue anywhere in my life."

Or, how about at least naming your researchers or their organizations? The Rand Corporation? Mearsheimer? Which government officials "get the picture"?

As for much of the rest of your comment, congratulations on your straw-stuffing skill.

Your phrasing, "The War on Terror" immediately demonstrates a lack of understanding. I am confident you have been exposed to the idea that "terror" is a tactic or strategy of an enemy, not the enemy. Fighting "terror", as Bush and Obama have done, is no way to win or successfully manage the conflict. A successful approach would be to know the enemy and its actual motivations. Further, consideration of only Al-Qaeda is a head-in-the-sand approach.

But anyways, the net message of your comment is that if not Islam, then "Islamism" is associated with "terror", but that it is better to just not talk about that, and that only a priestly-academic elite, which amazingly includes yourself, seems to be capable of discussing it, but then only behind closed doors. Go back and reread yourself. Quite arrogant it is.
Posted by: del at July 18, 2010 8:15 pm
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