January 03, 2005

Whos Stingy?

Jonathan Last notes that tsunami relief donations from rich Muslim countries are - shall we say - stingy compared with Japanese, Taiwanese, and Western donations. I don’t expect fat aid packages from Afghanistan and Somalia. But surely the House of Saud can spare more than 10 million dollars. Amazon.com raised more than that. Oil-rich Iran won’t even pledge one million dollars.

Since so many people who desperately need help are Muslims, I was first tempted to say “so much for Muslim solidarity.” But I don't think that’s the issue. Except for Turkey (which so far promises less than 2 million dollars) every rich stingy Muslim country cited is a dictatorship. And with the exception of China, the top 16 donors are Western and East Asian democracies.

Free people are generous. Tyrants are not.

UPDATE: I should not have suggested the Saudis are stingy. They spend Allah only knows how much money exporting their racist knuckle-dragging jihadist ideology to the rest of the planet.

SECOND UPDATE: It looks like the Arab states in the Gulf are contributing quite a lot for relief aid. Kuwait and Qatar have now matched Saudi Arabia's10 million dollars, according to the New York Times. (Hat tip: Katherine in the comments.) The United Arab Emirates pledged 20 million dollars. The populations of these countries are only a miniscule fraction of the populations of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE aren't democracies, but their governments are a lot more moderate and benign than the House of Saud and the mullahcracy. Whether or not a country is Muslim seems to have little or nothing to do with the generosity of its government. It's the Middle East's worst regimes that aren't pitching in as much as the rest of us.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 3, 2005 05:03 PM
Comments

Free people are generous. Tyrants are not.

Way to give muslims a pass Michael. If that tsunami had been jewish or American, you'd see all sorts of muslim solidarity towards the victims. You'd see muslim students out in the streets protesting the tsunami's injustice and inhumanity, etc. etc. Instead, we hear the sounds of crickets chirping.

But we're American, and judeo-christian. We aid even our enemies (especially our enemies).

Posted by: David at January 3, 2005 05:11 PM

David,

Maybe. But I'm not going to judge Iranians, for example, by the stingy behavior of the government they despise.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 3, 2005 05:22 PM

Watching the Free World respond to this has been nothing short of jaw dropping hasn't it? Despite the usual cries of stingyness etc. from the usual suspects (UN officials, Markos Moulitsas and his band of knuckleheads) the response everywhere, government, corporate and individual among free nations has been my best Christmas present.

Posted by: spc67 at January 3, 2005 05:27 PM

Clare Short revealed herself in all her small mindedness. The entire UN apparatus has been a huge disappointment throughout this sad disaster.

The US and Australian militaries are the key to the whole relief effort. The UN is superfluous.

Posted by: Bill Funt at January 3, 2005 06:26 PM

The Saudis are too busy studying medicine, building giant mosques in Greece and Thailand, preparing sham KSA elections and securing borders to ensure Wahhabi militants do not get into Iraq.

Posted by: d-rod at January 3, 2005 06:56 PM

LGF posted this on 12/31. From a Q&A at Islam Online's Live Fatwa page:

"Question:
Can we give those afflicted people a portion of our zakah money even if they are non-Muslims? How about giving them charity?

Answer:
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Thank you. The receivers of Zakah money are clearly mentioned in the Qur’an. Among them, the poor and needy people. Looking at the situation of those people who are afflicted, one can conclude that the Muslims among them fall under the category of needy people.

In this regard, those Muslims deserve to receive a portion of Zakah. As for non-Muslims, they might deserve donation or any other form of assistance but not Zakah.

Thus, Zakah should be given to poor and needy Muslims. Some non-Muslims may receive a portion of Zakah if there is hope that by giving them Zakah that might lead to their conversion into Islam. They would be then considered under the category of mu’allafati qulubuhun or those whose hearts are inclined to accept Islam."

Maybe some in the Muslim world have been a little slow to respond because they have to figure out how the Islamic rules of charitable giving apply, especially when so many westerners were among the victims. Of course I haven't a clue what "zakah" is....

Posted by: Caroline at January 3, 2005 07:41 PM

The "stingy" comment by U.N. Undersecretary Egeland really struck a nerve with a lot of people, including me. That said, his comments undoubtedly caused the donations of millions of extra dollars in relief aid, both by governments and private parties. Quite clever, if you ask me.

Posted by: Todd Pearson at January 3, 2005 07:59 PM

I hadn't known much about U.N. aid efforts until I heard the complaints about the U.S. acting on its own. The president of Oxfam was on NPR a day or two ago, and was asked about U.N. aid. He said he had personally seen the U.N. at work (I don't remember where--Somalia?), and that he didn't see much getting-down-and-getting-to-work; basically,he described them as bureaucrats who didn't do anything very urgently.

Posted by: Amy at January 3, 2005 08:09 PM

Michael,

go over to Juan Cole's site for another take on Muslim giving. I think you might want to qualify some of your statements. I know you've fisked Cole before, and he is an erratic commentator, to say the least. But he still makes a few good points.

Best regards,

John

Posted by: John Hobbins at January 3, 2005 08:16 PM

Quite clever, if you ask me.---TP

At this point,I would almost be willing to accept that at least UN bureaucrats,can be 'clever'.
Regretfully,I just don't but it.This clueless statement by Eglund is just the UN in action.Blame the West,but do NOTHING yourself,and when disaster either strikes or is not 'fixed',then have other bureaucrats write long useless reports that apportion blame in a politically correct manner.
Sooner or later, the UN is destined to go down in flames;our main hope is that it is sooner.

Posted by: dougf at January 3, 2005 08:20 PM

John,

What do you think of Cole's pronouncement on the population of Saudi Arabia? He writes "I don't think the Saudi citizen population can possibly be over 15 million no matter what Riyadh says."

Well, what about what the CIA says?

His figure is at least 5,200,000 less than the CIA's (25,795,938
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2004 est.))
.

That lowers their per capita share a bit, I'd imagine.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 3, 2005 08:28 PM

There is a good NY Times article on this exact subject. Some newspapers in the gulf states have raised this exact question, pointing out how many guest workers, etc. are from South Asia or Southeast Asia.

We have to give them more; we are rich," Waleed al-Nusif, the editor in chief of Al Qabas, said in a telephone interview. "The price of oil doubled, so we have no excuse."

After the paper's editorial appeared, the Kuwaiti cabinet raised its announced donation on Sunday to $10 million, from $2 million, having previously doubled it.

Kuwait is expected to run a budget surplus this year of roughly $10 billion, and Mr. Nusif noted that the government had just distributed an estimated $700 million to the Kuwaiti people themselves, the public share of the unanticipated revenue.

He said Kuwait should give a minimum of $100 million, not least because many of the country's 1.29 million foreigners of a total population of 2.25 million come from the devastated regions.

"They built Kuwait, and they raised our children," said Mr. Nusif, noting that before successive oil booms, India and other countries opened their doors to Kuwaitis, who were then relatively poor. The paper also advised Kuwaitis to check with their housemaids to see if they wanted to phone home in case family members were dead or missing.
Posted by: Katherine at January 3, 2005 09:23 PM

that said, a more relevant comparison is per capita and the most relevant comparison is per GNP $.

On that last front, Mozambique and East Timor may be ahead, per Jonathan at Head Heeb.

Posted by: Katherine at January 3, 2005 09:28 PM

that said, a more relevant comparison is per capita and the most relevant comparison is per GNP $.

Oh yeah? How many people will a high percentage of a low GDP save? Not many. What matters here is absolute dollars. THAT's what will save people, not some damn percentage. Everyone who is kicking in at all deserves thanks. Nobody is required to do this in my mind. Right now the US and Australia are doing the most good because of our speed. Over time Japan's $500 million will do more good than the next $490 million regardless of a percentage of GDP.

Posted by: spc67 at January 3, 2005 09:34 PM

spc67,

I think you might not be aware of just how few people live in places like Kuwait and Qatar. Less than one million each. So the fact that they're pledging 10 million dollars is pretty significant. It's as if Des Moines, Iowa pledged 10 million dollars.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 3, 2005 10:00 PM

Katherine,

By the way, I included your link in an update. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 3, 2005 10:00 PM

Mozambique and East Timor combined are less than half the population of Israel, which actually would be leading now in the more relevant comparison of per capita/GNP$.

Posted by: d-rod at January 3, 2005 10:00 PM

Right on Totten. A country run by an evil government only begets more evil.

And regardless of what those jokers in the UN say, the American people are for the most part a good-hearted people.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at January 3, 2005 10:26 PM

If we're making moral judgments--it's likely harder if anything for someone who makes $10,000 to give $10 than someone who makes $100,000 to give $100, and I think at least as praiseworthy.

I don't know to what extent countries that share a religion have an additional obligation--maybe they do but ours is no less, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn't.

If we're talking about how many people can be gotten food, shelter and all the rest, then of course total dollars matter most.

I don't mean to minimize the American response in any way. I'm finding it rather inspiring. What actually surprises me most is not the private donations, or even the administration's recent efforts, but the sustained and overall pretty decent press coverage.

I am not even a little surprised that Israel has donated. It's really a shame that their troops were turned away--whether the Indonesian government's shame or because they had a legitimate fear that someone in an Israeli uniform delivering aid would be harmed, I don't know.

Posted by: Katherine at January 3, 2005 11:22 PM

Does anyone know how much France has contributed so far?

Posted by: Fish at January 4, 2005 01:56 AM

Fish,

According to the article Jonathan Last links to, France has noted 27 million. It could be more by now, I don't know.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2005 01:57 AM

And if you want to get even more angry - or maybe have a good laugh at a purely ridiculous situation - go check out Wretchard's post titled "A Message of Hope"

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/

Here is a teaser; the job title of the latest UN appointee to the region is:

"United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries"

This lofty title is held by one Margareta Wahlstrom. Her duties include: "Ms. Wahlstrom's main task will be provide leadership and support to the international relief effort. She will undertake high-level consultations with the concerned governments in order to facilitate the delivery of international assistance."

Holy shit! Now that's what I call relief! Better yet, she expects to accomplish her task in two days. Efficient, eh?

Posted by: too many steves at January 4, 2005 04:04 AM

It's really a shame that their troops were turned away--whether the Indonesian government's shame or because they had a legitimate fear that someone in an Israeli uniform delivering aid would be harmed, I don't know.

Yes, I'm SO sure the Israelis were turned away for their own "safety".

Posted by: David at January 4, 2005 05:18 AM

Caroline: "I haven't a clue what "zakah" is"

Why am I not surprised? Anyway, zakah (can also be spelled zakat and some other ways) is:

"One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakah, which means purification and increment of one's wealth.

A Muslim who has money beyond a certain quantity is to pay the Zakah. It is also called the alms due or poor due. It is to be used in eight categories for welfare of the society that are mentioned in the Qur'an, namely: the poor, the needy, the sympathizers, the captives, the deptors, the cause of Allah, the wayfarers, and for those who are to collect it."

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/reference/glossary/term.ZAKAH.html

IIRC (I make no bets) it's usually to be distributed locally.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 05:44 AM

Kudos to Jan Egeland, the UN official who called the initial US response "stingy." Her candor has produced a classic win-win situation: Bush gets to rile up his national chauvanist base by angrily denouncing such an attack, while at the same time responding to the undeniable substance of Egeland's charges by increasing the US pledge by 1000%. Prodded by this tardy but nevertheless strong contribution, other countries step up to the plate to increase their offerings, led now by Japan at $500 million. Like I said, a win-win situation.

Posted by: Markus Rose at January 4, 2005 06:35 AM

I think you might not be aware of just how few people live in places like Kuwait and Qatar. Less than one million each. So the fact that they're pledging 10 million dollars is pretty significant. It's as if Des Moines, Iowa pledged 10 million dollars.

It doesn't matter except that they've pledged $10 millions. It's the DOLLARS that save people, not some knuckleheaded notion of relative generosity. Sorry, Jesus was wrong about the old woman and the two coins. The rich guy who gave five times as much did more good.

Posted by: spc67 at January 4, 2005 07:55 AM

Yikes, Marcus, you got just about everything wrong in your post, starting with the gender of Mr. Egelund. The $35M was not a 'pledge', it was actual cash money in a drawdown account. It was not for distribution to victims, it was an account for the first rescue workers to set up the infrastructure of the rescue. No one who was paying attention could have believed it constituted the U.S. committment to the victims or that Mr. Egelund's remarks had anything to do with subsequent contributions.

Posted by: Sluggo at January 4, 2005 08:07 AM

Are Americans generously giving, are Isrealis, are Iranians?

Or, are the governments of those people, giving money which they took from the populace in form of tax?

The only people, in my mind, to be praised of generosity, are the ones who donated of their own money. Groups that are raising funds, donating relief, volunteering to help, etc. Those are the people who are generous.

I haven't seen anything to indicate to me that Senators, Congressmen or even the Administration are taking up a private collection to give to the Red Cross (of course, they may be doing such things in private... if so GOOD FOR THEM). Would that not really be the test of generousity? Is it truly generous for a group of people to give money that isn't theirs? Under normal circumstances, perhaps that money might get used to build a school, or provide a service for their citizens? However, it won't take a bite of food, or a single Cuban Cigar from any congressman, or even the President... how is that generous of them? Maybe it's generous of the kids who would have gotten the new school (or whatever that money would have been used for), but they didn't get a choice... so thats not truly generous either.

Praise generousity, but don't confuse it with State Charity.

:)

A bit of discord,

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 4, 2005 08:08 AM

For Markus and Todd: the UN challenges the Sun to rise in the East every day! What success! If you two really believe that Mr. Egeland's insult cause the US government to give more, or US donors to give more, I fear for your progeny.

Posted by: Steve Malynn at January 4, 2005 08:08 AM

The United States and Australian navies have been vital to relief efforts, with its ships, planes, helicopters, landing craft, and specialized equipment for water purification and medical care. Without the equipment to get the aid to its location, a trillion dollars worth of aid would sit on the dock and rot.

Most nations have pledged aid, not provided it. The US and Australia have been providing aid from the beginning, and delivering it on the spot.

Contrast that with the "clever" UN, who are tardy to the race, stay only in 5-star hotels with 24 hour catering, and provide only "moral support" for aid delivery that was taking place without them anyway.

Posted by: Bill Funt at January 4, 2005 08:15 AM

The only people, in my mind, to be praised of generosity, are the ones who donated of their own money. - Tosk

I tend to agree Tosk, but then the Norwegians might find themselves to be the most stingy assholes in the world. (Apologies to Ms. Eggland).

Posted by: d-rod at January 4, 2005 08:40 AM

Michael - thanks for the link! Kuwait and Qatar have been very generous. I'm surprised that the Saudis, who are very PR-sensitive, haven't contributed more.

About the amount of money they contribute to terrorism:

According to Matthew Levitt (senior fellow in terrorism studies), a “recently disclosed 1996 CIA document show[ed] that as early as 1994 Washington was warning that in 1992 Saudi nationals gave some $150 million to Islamic charities active in Bosnia and implicated in terrorism.

Through the Holy Land Foundation, Muslims raised $13 million for Hamas.

Apparently ‘Saudi charities’ are still contributing approx $1 - $2 million to al Qaeda every month.

From the report:

"As recently as July 31, 2003, John Pistole, Acting FBI Director for Counterterrorism, testified in front of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. On Saudi efforts to stop terrorist financing, Pistole commented, "From our position the jury's still out on the effectiveness of what they (Saudis) have done. We simply have not seen the results of those initiatives from a terrorism financing perspective."

This information was provided by Levitt during his testimony before a senate subcommittee.

Like Saudi religious leaders, Saudi charities are regulated by the government

Posted by: mary at January 4, 2005 08:49 AM

d-rod,

Well, thats the point though, isn't it? Its the giant politico-hallucination of Socialism, that somewhow personal responsibility can be replaced by a social system where everyone is jointly responsible (thus making no one responsible). It's this politico-hallucination that we all seem to labor under to some extent.

Once we begin thinking of the government as stingy or generous, we have handed the government responsibility. The socialist politico-hallucination takes us and we suddenly 'expect' the government to 'be responsible' and to 'do the right thing'. If not enough funds are sent to a disaster, we can sucessfully shift blame to the government instead of "We The People". To the socialist, the government is a responsible entity. To the democratic, the government is simply a tool to be used by the People.

How do you think things would have fared, if, instead of giving our taxes to these nations, the government had simply set up a 'national donation' and asked for help. Would Americans have contributed as much as the government has already? Would they contribute more? Less?

If we would have contributed more or at least the same, then I think we would rightly be called generous. However, there is a tiny doubt poking at the right side of my brain, forcing me to wonder if The Great American People would have gotten even halfway to the donation levels of the government.

Are Americans responsible for themselves or have they gotten lazy under the socialist politica-hallucination of government responsibility? Or, were the socialists right, do we actually need a Mommy Government to make us share our toys?

Gods, I hope not.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 4, 2005 09:04 AM
I haven't seen anything to indicate to me that Senators, Congressmen or even the Administration are taking up a private collection to give to the Red Cross (of course, they may be doing such things in private... if so GOOD FOR THEM).

For once they may have followed their bible teachings.

Matthew 6:1-2 -- Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

I may be a [High Church] Atheist but I follow this one to the letter. My giving is between me the charity and the IRS. Besides, doing good deeds is much more fun when it's done sneaky-like! (I believe the snotty rich character got caught red handed doing this too and swore the grunt who caught him to secrecy while he continued to be sneered at by his "cooler" tentmates. The loud fashonable people are always going to hate the quietly virtuous regardless.)

But as far as this p*ssing contest goes, as long as the funds are going to aid that can be delivered, rather than the UN acruing and spending overhead, the more bluster and one-up-manship the better. The UN can continue being worthless in their 5-star hotel but so long as we aren't spending extra $ on their uselessness, who cares what they complain about and pretend to take credit for. As long as the people delivering the aid have US, Ausie, NZ, Indian, Japanese, Dutch, whatever flags on their shoulders the people will know who really delivered.

Posted by: Bill at January 4, 2005 09:11 AM

Bill,

I too agree with that passage (which is why I added the parenthetical comment about our senators etc). I think its great if our representatives are giving of their own money privately. However, as the main of my post stated, those private donations are what (i think) decide the generousity or stinginess of a nation. The government dole of charity, is just charity. Useful, appreciable and not a good way to judge the people of said nation. America is not generous or stingy, the People of America can choose to be generous or stingy. 'America the government' is just a tool.

I hope.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 4, 2005 09:29 AM
However, as the main of my post stated, those private donations are what (i think) decide the generousity or stinginess of a nation. The government dole of charity, is just charity. Useful, appreciable and not a good way to judge the people of said nation.

Testifyin' to the choir, Brother.

Posted by: Bill at January 4, 2005 09:37 AM

The force of a million atomic bombs! Stingy! Miracle Baby! Another 50,000 dead--no, a million! Miracle Baby!

I think we all need to take a breath--for the sake of the people and countries involved and for our own sanity.

The media, as per usual, are whipping up controversies when sage judgment is required. Don't let them win.

Posted by: PJ at January 4, 2005 09:54 AM

Michael Farris - thanks for the clarification, although you shouldn't be surprised that some people might be ignorant about much of the mumbo jumbo that passes for "religion". It would appear that the “5th pillar of Islam” rests on a somewhat shaky foundation, considering those pretty big strings attached.

Posted by: Caroline at January 4, 2005 10:23 AM

Caroline, I meant I wasn't surprised that someone here was quoting something they didn't fully understand, out of context, in order to slam Muslims. If that's not what you were doing, or intended to do, then my apologies.

Also, AFAIK, the numbers/percentages of zakat are a floor, not a ceiling, and just one kind of charity that Muslims are encouraged/obligated to give. Being human, things don't always work out so well in the real world, but the thought is there.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 10:37 AM

Michel Farris - you seem to know something about Islam. Do you know why contributions to terror-supporting charities like the Holy Land Foundation, Al Haramain and al Qaeda are considered to be zakah (or the more commonly used romanization, 'zakat')?

Why are contributions to Hamas holy, while contributions to kafir are questionable? Is it the whole najis thing?

Posted by: mary at January 4, 2005 10:56 AM

Tosk:

Private, non-governmental donations are coming in at nearly $250,000,000 from the U.S. right now. Add in the other $350,000,000 from the government which my elected officials gave in my name and I'd say we're doing pretty good. I'd bet we'll be hitting ten numbers west of the decimal by mid month, all from the "stingy" big, rich, selfish U.S.

http://blog.simmins.org/

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at January 4, 2005 11:07 AM

RickM,

:)

Firstly, the US government cannot technically give money to disaster relief in your name. They may donate, but they don't constitutionally have the right to do so.

However, (and more to the point) $250,000,000 is great proof that people can be personally responsible and that Americans ARE generous.

The $250,000,000 seems to me, to be what is newsworthy. That $250,000,000 is what we should be judging the stinginess of America by, not any ammount handed on as a federal charity.

Don't let the socialists form the debate around the wrong thing.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 4, 2005 11:15 AM

Mary, I'm no expert, I'm just not reflexively against Muslims. I'm not especially fond of what I know about Islam and would never follow it as a religion (same goes for any religion, really), but I've personally liked almost all the Moslems I've known (who tend toward the well-educated, moderate, modern and secular).

My main acquaintance with zakat comes from the ethnography Weapons of the Weak, about class relations in a Muslim rice farming village in the north of peninsular Malaysia (near the Thai border). Zakat was a major concern of rich and poor alike (the concern of the poor was to receive as much as possible and the concern of the rich was to give as little as possible, predictably enough). Interestingly it was the near poor who gave the most per capita.

Anyway, as to your second question, my guess is two part. 1. Many who give to those organizations don't perceive them the way you do. 2. Traditionally Muslims tend tend to prioritize along group-internal lines (helping those more like them before helping those less like them).

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 11:17 AM

Michael Farris

"I wasn't surprised that someone here was quoting something they didn't fully understand, out of context, in order to slam Muslims."

It was intended as a slam at Islam rather than Muslims but close enough so no apologies necessary.

"I've personally liked almost all the Moslems I've known (who tend toward the well-educated, moderate, modern and secular)."

Those are nominal Muslims, whom I will assume would be disinclined to follow the imams enlightened advice about charity, let alone seek it out in the first place.

"Anyway, as to your second question [to Mary], my guess is two part. 1. Many who give to those organizations don't perceive them the way you do. 2. Traditionally Muslims tend tend to prioritize along group-internal lines (helping those more like them before helping those less like them)."

Now those are true Muslims.

Posted by: Caroline at January 4, 2005 12:03 PM

I'm just not reflexively against Muslims

I’m not reflexively against Muslims either, and I enjoy the writings of Sufi scholars. But I am reflexively against Wahhabi inspired states and organizations that follow pro-slavery, pro-genocide laws, that have slaughtered Americans in the past and promise to slaughter millions more.

Many who give to those organizations don't perceive them the way you do

Exactly how, in your opinion, do the people who give their holy zakat to al Qaeda ‘perceive the organization?’

It’s interesting that you would mention the Malaysia/Thai border. Zakat-funded Muslim students have been beheading Buddhists in that area for a while.

Posted by: mary at January 4, 2005 12:34 PM

"Exactly how, in your opinion, do the people who give their holy zakat to al Qaeda ‘perceive the organization?’"

I have no earthly idea how donators feel about the organizations you previously mentioned. If I were to try to go about finding out, I wouldn't use phrases like "Why are you donating to a terrorist organization?" I'd ask something like "What is groupX doing that convinces you to contribute your zakat to them?" and then I'd listen carefully, keeping my opinions to myself until I had a chance to analyze the answers and think about them for a while.

But if al-Qaeda were easy to openly donate to, then I don't suspect they'd be a real problem.

I'm neutral toward Islam as a religion though I feel no hesitation toward criticising the behavior of Muslims in specific situations (such as the non-assimilating underclass growing in parts of western Europe, who I think should either assimilate and secularize or go somewhere else where they would presumably be happier).

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 12:59 PM

Caroline, I'm afraid I'm not as qualified as you are to determine who the "real" Muslims are.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 01:00 PM

Mary, the book i was referring to was researched in the 70's-80's, long before the influence of US regional allies (and W family friends) the Saudis poisoned the traditionally easy going Malay version of Islam. The people described in the book are Muslim as far as any formal religion can be ascribed to them, but not the hateful, regressive Saudi kind. Things have deteriorated sadly since then.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 4, 2005 01:04 PM

The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organize the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven't been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note: this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation.

The US, Australia, Singapore and the Indonesian military have started a 'Coalition Co-ordination Centre' in Medan to organize all the incoming and outgoing military flights with aid. A sub-centre is established in Banda Aceh."

The above is from diplomadic.blogspot

A lot more information from people actually on the ground. click over

Posted by: Bill Funt at January 4, 2005 01:10 PM

Off-Topic Alert !!!

In the interests of public education,I found this item via a trip to 'Ace of Spades'.
I hate to be so un-nuanced but I sincerely hope that this guys life now becomes nasty,mean,brutish and SHORT.What a dramatic illustration of the 'insurgent'scum now murdering all and sundry in Iraq.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050103/ids_photos_wl/r3811391753.jpg

Posted by: dougf at January 4, 2005 02:07 PM

Michael Farris - the Malays did practice an easy-going version of Islam. Things have deteriorated a lot since then, as they have in a lot of extremist-influenced places.

Posted by: mary at January 4, 2005 02:16 PM

Michael Farris:

"The people described in the book are Muslim as far as any formal religion can be ascribed to them, but not the hateful, regressive Saudi kind"

I'll bet that 95% of Malaysians have never even read the Koran. That makes them nominal Muslims - Muslims in name only - like the vast majority of illiterate, non-Arabic reading Muslims who rely on the sugary words of the local religious authorities about what the Koran says.

"I'm afraid I'm not as qualified as you are to determine who the "real" Muslims are."

Methinks those are the "hateful aggressive Saudi kind" who are adhering to the dictates of the Koran and following the actual example set by the prophet Muhammed. If your secular, modern friends, for instance, reject jihad against infidels, then they are Muslims in name only. They are about as Muslim as I am Christian (nominal Christian) because I do not accept Jesus as my "savior" and I am hesitant to suggest that he was the "son of God" but I accept other reasonable stuff I learned from my upbringing about how to treat my fellow man.

I do admire your gut instinct to defend "Muslims" as fellow human beings. I share that same instinct - after all, I am a nominal Christian. But Islam itself - as spelled out in the Koran - does not get a free pass on that score. And that includes the rules regulating zakah, especially when it includes indifference to whether or not the funds will be used to finance murder of other human beings.

Posted by: Caroline at January 4, 2005 03:12 PM

"...Islam itself - as spelled out in the Koran - does not get a free pass..."

Caroline, I'm surprised you can make such a definitive, sweeping statement about Islam and the Koran, considering that a few hours ago you said:

"Of course I haven't a clue what "zakah" is...."

Posted by: VinoVeritas at January 4, 2005 04:47 PM

"I'm surprised you can make such a definitive, sweeping statement about Islam and the Koran"

That's fair. I certainly did make sweeping statements but I did not intend them to be definitive. Let's just say that I have seen reams of translated quotes sufficient to inform me that Islam is not properly described as a religion of peace. I don't need to spend years learning the minutia of the warm and fuzzy side to override that overwhelming impression. I also know enough about the history of the "prophet" Muhammed to conclude that he was not a holy man. Therefore, all the rest, including "zakah" is irrelevant to me. But like I said - I admire and share in the defense of the innocent and largely ignorant followers of this "religion". I am open to learning more about the Sufi's, however, which were mentioned earlier. But like most mystical sects of a religion I suspect that Sufism bears little resemblance to what is spelled out in the Koran itself. I would add that at this point in time it seems to me to pose a greater danger to continually give Islam a free pass because we can't read Arabic and we haven't studied the texts in detail and so on then it does to accept the testimony of the likes of UBL and his ilk, who directly inform us that they are following the dictates of the Koran quite closely. Their testimony to this fact completely gels with the reams of translated text I have seen. It also gels with the fact that any questioning or criticism of Islam or Muhammed can result in a fatwa against you and leaving the religion (apostasy) merits a death sentence. Such an effort to suppress open inquiry or criticism about what it actually says and to keep adherents by force suggests there is indeed something to hide.

Posted by: Caroline at January 4, 2005 05:45 PM

"That's fair. I certainly did make sweeping statements but I did not intend them to be definitive. Let's just say that I have seen reams of translated quotes sufficient to inform me that Islam is not properly described as a religion of peace. I don't need to spend years learning the minutia of the warm and fuzzy side to override that overwhelming impression."

Which translated quotes were you referring to in particular.

"I would add that at this point in time it seems to me to pose a greater danger to continually give Islam a free pass because we can't read Arabic and we haven't studied the texts in detail and so on then it does to accept the testimony of the likes of UBL and his ilk, who directly inform us that they are following the dictates of the Koran quite closely."

If you are largely ignorant of the Qu'ran's texts beyond random verses you've seen translated (notwithstanding the accuracy and motivations of those interpretations and their motivations), including the most general specifics, such as what a 'zakah' is, perhaps you shouldn't worry about free passes or wholesale condemnations based on admittedly scant evidence and simply suspend wholesale judgement until you actually learn more, whatever that may entail. There's plenty of of layman friendly Qu'ran resources on the net.

Posted by: Epitome at January 5, 2005 04:56 AM

The Saudi Arabians are likely being stingy because of racism. If you've lived there, you see how poorly TCNs are treated, muslim and non-muslim. They live as slaves; most don't even have control of their own passports, instead getting an igama in replacement, which means they can't even leave the country without the permission of their Saudi Arabian "employer". Most accept the beatings and belittlement they receive as part of the job.
The idea of them being fellow muslims doesn't seem to sink in when they are offered demeaning jobs at slave wages, so I can't imagine why the Saudi Arabians would think of them as fellow muslims when it comes time to dole out either zakah or aid.

Posted by: Diggs at January 5, 2005 05:21 AM

@Epitome: see

prophetofdoom.net

(be sure to read the feedback forums)

faithfreedom.org

jihadwatch.com

If Muhammed killed one man let alone hundreds, and if Islam is a "revealed" religion, then you may as well accept Charles Manson as a prophet.

Posted by: Caroline at January 5, 2005 06:19 AM

Epitome

I just saw that Craig Winn - the author of Prophet of Doom - has received a very serious death threat. The death threat is posted at faithfreedom.org. The guy may have only a few days left. Its worth taking a moment to read his website: Prophetofdoom.net - before it gets shut down. If you don't think that this is what happens to people who criticize and expose Islam, then you have learned nothing from the death of Van Gogh.

Posted by: Caroline at January 5, 2005 06:35 AM

Ali Sina - at faithfreedom.org - posted the following letter to the people who threatened Craig Winn's life (sorry - I don't know how to link):

So you want to assassinate Craig Winn to salvage the lost honor of your prophet?

Well, Winn is not immortal. He surely can be targeted and killed. But does his death restore the honor of Islam?

What the death of Theo Van Gogh accomplished for Islam and Muslims in Holland , Europe and the rest of the world? Millions more found out that Islam is a cult of death and turned their backs against it. Van Gogh’s movie “Submission” was shown by hundreds of sites and millions of people saw it. Winn’s assassination will do the same. Millions more will come to see Islam is a murderous cult and will rise with more determination to destroy it. The anti Islamic sentiment in America and the rest of the world will grow. People will demand their politicians to curtail the freedoms of the Muslims and expulse them from their countries. At the same time Winn’s book, Prophet of Doom will be sold by millions and the whole world will come to see Islam for what it is.

You think you can do whatever you want through terror and threats. You are very mistaken. If Craig Winn pulls out his site, I will publish his book in my site. Neither would you be able to stop me nor Winn. I will ask other concerned humans to do the same. Winn’s book will be featured on line by tens of sites and will be read by millions of people.

You are offended because Winn called Islam a “Terrorist Dogma” and you are demanding apology and threatening to assassinate him. The depressing joke is that your brains are so dysfunctional that you can’t see the irony.

What kind of god is this Allah that gets offended by people’s criticism to the extents that has to assassinate them? Is such a petulant god worthy of worship? How do we know Allah is not Satan? What he taught you to do is satanic and not divine. Whatever Muslims do in the name of their religion is satanic. Bombing innocent people is satanic, assassinations are satanic, massacring children is satanic, stoning, flogging, maiming, gouging the eyes, cutting the limbs, honor-killings are all satanic. Allah cannot be the compassionate and merciful god that his prophet has falsely claimed. He is a sadist, a demonic evil ghost pretending to be God.

Apart from being evil Allah is also impotent. What kind of deity is this that can’t kill his opponents on his own and like a godfather of a mafia ring relies on his hired killers to eliminate those whom he does not like?

Islam is insanity. Once again I urge Muslims to leave Islam. Allah is not God and Muhammad was an impostor. The evidence is overwhelming. I challenge the Muslims to prove the contrary. I challenge you to disprove my charges against Muhammad. I promised to remove this site should anyone prove me wrong. Four years has passed and that has not happened yet.

I am not a wealthy man, but I have a house. It is mortgaged but there is some equity in it. I offer anyone who can prove my charges against Muhammad to be wrong, $50.000 dollars in American money. If Islam is true, prove me wrong and my house is yours. If you can’t and if no one can why you cling to this evil cult of terror and murder? Why do you want to be part of the billion-man terrorist organization? We have proven that Muhammad was a terrorist. Why do you want to be a follower of a terrorist? Why this man you call prophet, did not give a single logical proof to his claim and the only proof he had was FEAR? Apart from instilling fear; what else Muhammad gave as the proof to his claim? The only argument of Islam is FEAR. Fear of hell and fear of assassination and terror. What kind of god is this that can’t establish his truth except through fear? Why there is not a single Muslim to prove the truth of Islam through logic?

Dear fellow human; if you are a human, leave Islam because Islam is bestiality. It is evil, it is monstrous. Allah is not God, he is Satan. Leave this satanic cult now or prove me wrong.

Prove me wrong and I will give you my house. I promise to give you $50,000 dollars if you or your Imam can prove me wrong. But if you can’t, then leave this cult of hate and terror and save you soul. Stop this insanity. Become part of humanity. Do not be a follower of a psychopath criminal. Do not worship the Satan disguised as God. Do not submit your intelligence to demon. Do not betray the gift of God that makes us humans. Use your brain and see for yourself that Islam is nothing but deception, fallacy and lies. Leave this cult! Join mankind! Be part of us! Do not be an enemy to humanity! Get rid of your hate! Learn to love and become a human again.

Posted by: Caroline at January 5, 2005 06:59 AM

Dead Thread

Good name for a rock band that just stands there silently forcing the audience to listen to their own thoughts.

Posted by: Caroline at January 5, 2005 05:18 PM

Well compare this:

Formula 1 - Star Michael Schuhmacher donated : 10 Million $$$.

The Saudi-Goverment donated 10 Million $$$.

Any questions ...

Posted by: exil-raqi at January 5, 2005 05:36 PM

Yes, I'm late to the party, but you should take into account that the Saudis pump 7.7 million barrels of oil per day.

The current price is hovering between $42 and $44 per barrel.

They're donating $10 million in tsunami relief? Chump change, for them.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at January 5, 2005 09:12 PM

"Dead Thread

Good name for a rock band that just stands there silently forcing the audience to listen to their own thoughts."

Sorry Caroline, I was just pondering all you gave me to take in. I was aware that the Qu'ran had some rather unsettling things to say, but I just chalked that up to old religious texts, even the old testament has some rather unsettling morally questionable things in it. I did not however realize just how extensively revolting this stuff was. I've gone ahead and ordered two books from Amazon just today 'Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs' and 'Why I Am Not a Muslim' to try and learn more.

I will still judge individual Muslims by the content of their character, and I still hold out some hope that some moderate-liberalized version of this religion can emerge with some mental gymnastics, but it's clear not all religions are created equal.

Posted by: Epitome at January 6, 2005 01:47 AM

caroline:
"I'll bet that 95% of Malaysians have never even read the Koran. That makes them nominal Muslims - Muslims in name only - like the vast majority of illiterate, non-Arabic reading Muslims who rely on the sugary words of the local religious authorities about what the Koran says"

I am a Malay, and lived there for 31 years. guess I'm qualified to tell you about the above. ALL moslem must have read Qur'an, otherwise they can't do the prayer. Some might not read it cover-to-cover, but most spent our early youth (specially my generation) learning to recite Qur'an in arabic and understanding the interpretation in Bahasa (our language). no doubt there are those who claim as Moslem but did not read Qur'an or pray at all.
And yes, we're "easy going" moslem. Some do drink alcohol, others do gambling. but nobody can call us not a real moslem. not the arabs, and certainly not people like you who know nothing about islam or malays.

rfajar

Posted by: rfajar at January 6, 2005 12:58 PM

rfajar

Did Muhammed personally murder people? How many? How many people did he order murdered at other's hands? Did Muhammed condone rape, slavery, theft, cutting off limbs, gouging out eyes, having sex with children, murdering non-believers? How many of these acts did he personally perform?

Come back and tell me the truth about that, since you have personally read the Qur'an. Of course to answer those questions you also have to have read the Sira and the Hadith. Have you read those texts as well, which give the biographical information about Muhammed?

If you found out that these facts about Muhammed's life were actually true would you imagine that he could possibly be a messenger of God - a prophet? Would God choose such a man to convey his message to the world?

I do want to hear your thoughts on that but I also encourage you to accept Ali Sina's challenge to prove him wrong on the facts of Muhammed's life as revealed in the classic texts. He is offering a large sum of money for anyone who can do it. He has been waiting for 4 years for someone to prove him wrong. In the meantime he has helped a great many well-meaning but deluded people find out the truth and free themselves from Islam.

His website is

www.faithfreedom.org

If you discover that he is telling the truth, please tell as many Muslims as you can. He is hoping for a domino effect to save mankind. He also believes that only fellow Muslims can do it.

Rfajar - this has nothing to do with you personally. I completely believe that all people in the end are the same. It is IDEAS that corrupt and separate us. So leave your ego out of it and try to simply find out the truth for yourself - really - for all our sakes.

Posted by: Caroline at January 6, 2005 03:50 PM

Epitome

"I will still judge individual Muslims by the content of their character"

Epitome - I am glad you took the time to check out those sites. I know what you're saying in that statement - the last thing in the world any sane human being would want is for people to turn around and start pointing fingers saying "Muslim" "Muslim" Kill him! - like so many have done to the Jews throughout history. But when you say "individual Muslims" - what does that mean? Frankly - there is no such thing as a "Muslim" in that sense! Islam is a set of beliefs and ideas that someone adheres to. That's all. Which means that individual people of every ethnic, national or racial persuasion adhere to those ideas to a greater or lesser extent. How can we know what is going on in any individual's head? Most accounts of Islamic radicals portray them as appearing to blend in perfectly with even Western society - cheerful, going for a beer or whatever. My real fear is that after one more really catastrophic terrorist attack - that distinction will be lost altogether and everyone labeled a "Muslim" will be a target for terrible hatred and violence, even those who are nominal Muslims. We cannot confuse what is basically a cultural heritage with an informed adherence to the belief system itself. The fact is that the belief system itself is evil. Muhammed was an evil man. We have to move past political correctness and address the facts of the belief system and the facts about its messenger without also tarring the millions of innocents who just happen to share the cultural label. How do we do that? If the facts about Muhammed's life are true - along with all of the implications that follow - then it is a dead end road to keep calling Islam a "religion of peace" - and think we can escape the problem that way.

Personally, I admire the way Ali Sina is going about it. I think he is on the right track. He is also brutally honest about Islam.

Posted by: Caroline at January 6, 2005 04:27 PM

Hello everybody. Especially to Michael, really interesting blog. I've been following the comment for this post and have to say am starting to feel rather afraid.

I'm a a Muslim. I don't wish to harm anybody. I don't wish to impose my beliefs onto anybody. I respect the laws of my great country (above those of Islam). I believe in integration. I don't believe in terrorism (in any form). I don't give charity (zakat) to terrorist organisations (why should I, murdering bigoted scumbags). The only Jihad (struggle) I have ever known is that within my own heart (struggle to be a better person). I believe in freedom of speech (Muslims who are so afraid of others criticising their faith should jump ship, literally). I believe in democracy.

I hate Osama bin Ladin, his followers and everything they stand for. I hate the hypocrisy in the ‘Muslim' world (so many examples). I hate the way (in some countries) women are treated like second class citizens. I simply abhor the Taliban.

I love God (whoever he is). I love humanity. I love my wife. I love my twins. I just want to get through life, be a good person, earn a couple of pounds, give my kids a decent education, and then enjoy my retirement.

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Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn