October 25, 2006

Islamophobia (for lack of a better word)

First of all, I want to publicly commend Dean Esmay for challenging right-wing bigotry (you heard me) against Muslims. It ought to go without saying that I am not referring to opponents, peaceful or otherwise, of Al Qaeda, Hamas, The Taliban, Hezbollah, Wahhabism, Algerian Salafism, etc., ad nauseum. I am referring here to those who demonize a billion people -- including my wonderful old West Beirut neighbors, as well as the Iraqi Kurds who love us more than anyone else in the world -- as mortal enemies.

Dean has been relentless on this question lately, and the only support I've seen him get is in his comments section. But perhaps I haven't been paying enough attention.

A while ago he invited Ali Eteraz, an American Muslim who eschews the "moderate" label, to blog with him.

I want to direct you to an essay Ali wrote about his experience in an Ann Coulter chat room. Yes yes, I know, there are plenty of jerks on the Internet and of course some of Ann Coulter's fans are going to be mean to a believing Muslim. So what, right?

Read it anyway. It's quite a story. And Ali is a real stand-up guy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 01:53 AM
Comments

Michael:

Let me preface my coments by saying that I enjoy your blog. However, I'm not sure that I get your point on this post.

Your last paragraph seems to be the most meaningful. i.e. It's no suprise that Coulter's fans (rabid, whack-o conservatives) would insult a Muslim, so what is the point?

What's next, a post on how Christians are assailed at the Daily Kos by "rabid, whack-o liberals"?

All the best.

Posted by: SirGlubb at October 25, 2006 05:03 AM

People see the parts of Islam that are filled with hate and terror and are repulsed. Right-wingers can’t get past the get past the beheadings, fatwas, and the condemnation of Jews and Christians. I feel that until moderate Islam does something to change those views, there will be detractors. And more right-wing bigots to upset moderate Islam. It’s just a vicious circle that won’t be cured in our lifetime.
Cheers,

Posted by: Richard at October 25, 2006 05:23 AM

Even folks like those at jihadwatch don't claim to
demonize the people, but at most, the religion.
To the extent that fundamentalism is a mandated part
of islam, it is a problem. To the extent that many
muslims don't appear to practice fundamentalism is
good news.

Posted by: Frank Ch. Eigler at October 25, 2006 05:29 AM

I certainly despise naked religious bigotry, but I do want to see an open debate about Islam and the ideology that claims it is Islam. Islamophobia is a politically charged term that is used to denounce the former as well as the latter. It is used to restrict free speech in the guise of political correctness. The defense of liberal society is far more important than the sensibilities of any religion.

Oliver Kamm writes on the use of the term in the UK.

Posted by: Mal at October 25, 2006 05:40 AM

Don't have time to read Ali's post right now (but I will) but there are two things that immediately come to mind in response to complaints about anti-muslim bigotry. The first is that compared to pretty much anywhere else, there are almost no religiously-motivated crimes in the US, against anyone. As tragic as the exceptions may be, it doesn't serve anyone to exaggerate them to the proportions of, say, anti-Christian violence in the middle east.

The second is that as a group, muslims continue to nurse prejudices and sympathize with violent bigots in a way that anglophones abandoned long ago. I have muslim neighbors, coworkers and associates too. They aren't terrorists, aren't disloyal (that I know of) and wouldn't hurt you over politics. But they "know" the Jews run the US government, etc. They are-as a group, some (perhaps/hopefully many) individuals aside-the same as the white southerners who didn't personally lynch anyone, or the ordinary Germans who didn't know anything! about cattlecars or death camps.

Posted by: Stacy at October 25, 2006 05:55 AM

Thanks for calling attention to Dean's work. I'd like to take this chance to support his work in your comments section.

Posted by: Fred at October 25, 2006 06:06 AM

I've always disliked the word Islamophobia. It's one of those politically-charged identity politics-based misnomers, like speciesism, herstory and womyn.

Islamophobia-watch sites are the worst. One of these sites has nominated the bloggers at Harry's Place (along with King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Bruce Willis (?), George Bush, Robert Spenser and the Organisers of Toronto Supports Denmark Rally) for their Islamophobe of the Year award.

The people who run this site define Islamophobia as "intolerance". Here's a photo of a protest they sponsored, with all of the usual Hezbollah tchotchkes. Photos of the protest were linked to from Harry's Place.

Like most zealots, the people who run these sites don't see the irony in any of this.

I post on Dean's World. I'd be disappointed if the site focused on "Islamophobia."

I don't agree with the idea that the religion of Islam is any better or worse than any other religion. Discussions about the issue usually involve no strategy or new ideas, and they usually descend to a dogma-heavy angels-dancing-on-the head-of-a-pin level.

I don't agree with Robert Spencer's focus on religion, and his commenters do descend to the Kos-level of bigotry and rage, but his attitude towards the Kurds seems to be pretty positive. In fact, speaking of right wing bigotry, he links to this article:

KURDISH politicians negotiating a draft constitution have criticised the US ambassador to Iraq for allegedly pushing them to accept too great a role for Islamic law in the US drive to complete the charter on time.

Although a Sunni delegate made similar charges, US officials declined to comment publicly while they worked with politicians as today's deadline loomed...

..."These things are not good — giving the constitution an Islamic face. It is not good to have a constitution that would limit the liberties of people, the human rights, the freedoms," Mr Othman said.

Extreme Sharia laws are the legalization of bigotry. Why on earth is our government trying to force Muslims to accept an extreme interpretation of Sharia - when they don't want to?

If we're looking at bigotry that actually affects the war on terrorism, we should look at our own State Department. What are they doing over there?

Posted by: mary at October 25, 2006 06:49 AM

I suppose some people might be offended by what I'm about to say. I regret that because I don't intend to offend. I intend to state my observations, from my perspective. I hope that you don't assume that I am claiming definite statements of fact.

I began as a faithful Christian who KNEW what the truth of the Bible was. I held that faith for the first 23 years of my life. I spoke publicly in both Bible discussions, dissertations and lectures in front of thousands of people . I've read the bible several times and can probably quote it as well as any other minister, probably better than some.

Then I had a crisis of faith, a crisis of conscience and I began to find that what I believed and what I could substantiate through history, through science and through my own observations simply didn't match up with the scriptures. So I left.

I still respected the religion I had been in, the religion of my parents and friends. Just as I respected the religion of others. I began to see that People felt equally convinced that their religion was right. People seemed as invested in their Hindu beliefs and Muslim beliefs as Christians did with theirs. I figured that I could accept and have tolerance for any religious view that didn't directly threaten other people.

Yet, the longer I observe the actions of people who claim to be religious, either Christian, Muslim or other, the less tolerant I feel. While I don't think that anyone can say "There is no God", we certainly have no proof that any religion's view of God exists as anything other than myth, perception and emotion.

Some Christians appear as dogmatic about their myths as the most fervent Muslim. Within the past hundred years... within the past 20 years, Christians have killed, tortured, beaten, and harassed those that didn't share their beliefs.

So I find it more and more difficult to tolerate Dogmatic belief from any corner, be it Christian, Muslim (or the nitwit scientists who think that they KNOW the truth). Perhaps its the current situation that has made so many religious people appear as they do... or perhaps its just my eyes opening yet further to see the real risks of dogma and faith. Or, perhaps, its simply my perception based on the actions of some few bad eggs from all of these different belief systems.

I strive for tolerance, but currently neither the Muslims, nor the Christians are making tolerance an attractive option. It's beginning to feel like tolerating the KKK, I do it on principle, but it turns my stomach.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 09:05 AM

Ratatosk, I'm not offended, because you clearly wrote that hyperbolic post without a moment of thought. Write to Coretta Scott King and tell her Christians and the Klan are equivalent.

I would think in all your readings of the Bible, you would have noticed the absence of commands to brings converts by the sword, or set up a tiered society with Christians at the top. People calling themselves Christian have committed terrible evil acts, but not with Biblical justification. By contrast, when Muslims say they will "Fight against those who do not believe in Allah nor in the Last Day, and do not make forbidden what Allah and His messenger have made forbidden, and do not practice the religion of truth, of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the jizya off-hand, being subdued," they are being true to their ugly religion. Christians can be evil, but they violate the rules of their religion to do so. Muslims can be good, but they might have to violate the rules of their religion to do so.

Posted by: bgates at October 25, 2006 10:09 AM

SirGlubb: However, I'm not sure that I get your point on this post.

The point was to get you to click over and read what Ali wrote.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 10:48 AM

Mary: I've always disliked the word Islamophobia. It's one of those politically-charged identity politics-based misnomers, like speciesism, herstory and womyn.

I know it. We need another word, and I don't have one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 10:49 AM

Stacy says "As tragic as the exceptions may be, it doesn't serve anyone to exaggerate them to the proportions of, say, anti-Christian violence in the middle east."

Considering most victims of violence in the Middle East are also muslims and in the case of Israel, jews, I'm not sure what Christians you're referring to here.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at October 25, 2006 11:10 AM

Ratatosk,

I share your point of view. Well said.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at October 25, 2006 11:11 AM

I've certainly had my differences with Dean, but he's been doing good work on the anti-anti-Muslim bigotry front. And that last awkward phrase may be why Islamophobia is a useful term.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 11:17 AM

Bad Vilbel: "Considering most victims of violence in the Middle East are also muslims and in the case of Israel, jews, I'm not sure what Christians you're referring to here."

I was thinking of the Assyrians in Iraq, the nun who was murdered in retaliation for the Pope's comments, etc. My point was that even the relatively miniscule amount of anti-christian violence in the middle east today outweighs anti-muslim hate crimes in the US, and those hate crimes are mostly of the nature of insults and ignorant comments anyway, not violence.

I know Michael is not equivocating between, say, Hezbollah and the anti-gay nuts who protest at the funerals of American soldiers. Many other people do, and that's why I get defensive. I try to keep my own perspective. I realize that not everyone does.

Posted by: Stacy at October 25, 2006 11:23 AM

Ali can write, but his "I am not a moderate" post sets up and knocks down straw man after straw man. Just as it is the responsibility of Americans to criticize American mistakes, it is the responsibility of Muslims to criticize Islamist terrorism. One can think that and not believe that Muslims are evil, or that Islam is inherently anti-humanist. As with so many who would never personally condone terrorism, he seems more offended by the words of Americans than the deeds of his coreligionists.

As for his other post -- yes, it's sad that there are such people, but who is surprised? You don't go to Ann Coulter's site looking for tolerance or intelligence. Those people are no more representative of the right than Loose Change adherents are of the left.

Posted by: brett at October 25, 2006 11:25 AM

We need another word, and I don't have one

Given the Mc Carthyesque nature of the Islamophobia Watch sites, potential blacklist candidates could be accused of "Un-Muslim Activities"?

I guess that's one of many reason's why I've never been a fan of Ann Coulter - she's a fan of Joe McCarthy. Interestingly enough, Johann Hari, the leftist writer who used to post at the leftist "Islamophobic" Harry's Place, wrote a scathing condemnation of recent right-wing efforts to polish McCarthy's image.

Leftist and Syria-supporter George Galloway frequently accuses people of Islamophobia. When free speech issues come up, it's interesting to see the opinions on the right and the left.

Hari also wrote this article about Islamophobia:

Indeed, in their shrill condemnations of anybody who criticises Islam, they have actually fundamentally misunderstood Islam itself. Like all religions, it is based on a dense, contradictory and often ludicrous Holy Book that is being constantly reinterpreted. At the moment, there is a fierce battle within Islam between fundamentalists with a viciously reactionary agenda, and liberals with a more moderate agenda. If Muslim women and Muslim gays are going to have any kind of decent life, the liberals need to receive solidarity and support – but slap-dash charges of Islamophobia intimidate people who could offer it. They make people afraid to help the Muslim critics of fundamentalism, encouraging people to see Islam as a homogenous block defined by its most reactionary elements.

Posted by: mary at October 25, 2006 11:29 AM

Ratatosk, I'm not offended, because you clearly wrote that hyperbolic post without a moment of thought. Write to Coretta Scott King and tell her Christians and the Klan are equivalent.

Dear Gods and Goddesses! Did you really think I was equating Christianity with the Klan?! Please reread what I stated:

I strive for tolerance, but currently neither the Muslims, nor the Christians are making tolerance an attractive option. It's beginning to feel like tolerating the KKK, I do it on principle, but it turns my stomach.

I think that the KKK are a indefensible group, however I still support tolerance of their group because I value the principle of tolerance (though with the Klan its difficult). By the same token, I support tolerance of Christians and Muslims and all the other Dogmatic folk who are still worshiping myths and fiction, even though its becoming more and more difficult to justify, because of the words and actions of many individuals that claim to be Christian.

I have held the position of tolerance for all, but then I see Fred Phelps and I would like to puke. The same goes for Pat Robertson and all those blog comments that hide behind the piety of Jesus, all the while spouting hatred based on bigotry.

I have seriously begun to wonder about the wisdom of tolerance. Should I have tolerance for the KKK member that raises his child to believe the lies and bigoted beliefs of their gang? Should I have tolerance for some crazy Muslim training his son to believe that Suicide death is a good thing? Should I tolerate Jehovah's Witnesses teaching their children that its better to die than accept a medical procedure involving blood? Should I tolerate the Christian that teaches their child to hate Gays, or athiests, or Muslims?

I used to believe that the answer was yes, but its becoming more and more difficult to justify that position.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 11:45 AM

Tosk, I think you should not tolerate the likes of the KKK, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.

No tolerance for the intolerant. Especially when we're talking about people who kill innocents as a matter of principle. Okay, the KKK doesn't do that anymore, but still. They need to do better than that before they get a pass from me.

Hezbollah may not crash airplanes into buildings. But they do fire rockets at cities in other countries. And they threatened to kill me personally. So screw 'em.

There are smart ways and dumb ways to deal with people like this. I don't think tolerance, which is passive, is one of the smart ways.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 11:58 AM

There are smart ways and dumb ways to deal with people like this. I don't think tolerance, which is passive, is one of the smart ways.

Tolerance does not mean passive acceptance, and it's not easy. But it's essential if we're to avoid being like those groups you mention.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 12:12 PM

Should we tolerate Al Qaeda, too? An unreciprocated live-and-let-live sort of deal?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 12:37 PM

Should we tolerate Al Qaeda, too? An unreciprocated live-and-let-live sort of deal?

If al Qaeda breaks the law, as they have obviously done, then no, of course not, they are a criminal organization. But if a group like Hezbollah can be moderated over time or included in a democratic framework (which does tend to moderate extremists, which is why it is a valuable process) then why not? Or, if not, what kind of "not tolerating" are we talking about? Does it include not tolerating a group with massive public support?

And in a parallel vein, what are your feelings on hate speech laws?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 01:12 PM

Tolerance does not mean passive acceptance, and it's not easy. But it's essential if we're to avoid being like those groups you mention.

Should we tolerate Al Qaeda, too? An unreciprocated live-and-let-live sort of deal?

And thus my problem. I can't justify tolerating Al-Queda or Hezbollah because they ACT in a way that harms other people. Not tolerating acts of violence is easy.

But those acts of violence don't form in a vacuum. They form in the brainwashed minds of people who accept a dogmatic belief as TRUE. They correlate to the hate filled Imam that preaches intolerance at the Mosque.

So, to be fair I must examine Christianity from the same position. Its easy for me to not tolerate someone that kills an abortion doctor, or a gay person. Yet, they seem to be in the same position as Hezbollah or AQ, in that their violence didn't rise from a vacuum. It came about because these idiots were brainwashed by hate filled speech coming from a pulpit.

So I'm finding it more and more difficult to tolerate intolerant attitudes and words simply because it seems, to me, like one of the root causes of intolerant acts. It doesn't seem to me that all Muslims perform acts of intolerance, nor does it seem to me that all Christians perform acts of intolerance. Indeed, I think its a very small number from both groups that actually act on hate. Yet, the hate seems to permeate the public face of both groups. Hate seems to fill the comments of many people that claim to be in the religion of peace as well as those that claim to follow the Prince of Peace.

Can the tolerance of intolerance continue to be justified, if the intolerant attitudes/speech are what appear at least partly responsible for the horrific acts of intolerance?

Thus my quandary.

Ratatosk

(Just when I thought Id figured all this out.... bleh)

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 01:33 PM

Tosk, MJT

"Should I have tolerance for some crazy Muslim training his son to believe that Suicide death is a good thing?...Should I tolerate the Christian that teaches their child to hate Gays, or athiests, or muslims?"

Let me add another classification, "atheists who hate any person who disagrees with their ethical principles." Some atheists are terribly intolerant of competing ethical worldviews.

I think MJT makes a good point when he says we should not tolerate people who do evil to other people. At the same time, I think it is important to recognize that people have legitimate differences of opinions and beliefs. All too often, people call legitimate differences of belief intolerance. For example, I am a Christian and know a lot of Christian people. I do not know one Christian who says we should hate gays, athiests, or Muslims. Shortly after 9/11, an elder led our church in praying for the Muslim people because of the war that was coming. (Even thought he supported the war!) Maybe some Christians who know better struggle with the issue of hate and maybe some who seem to hate do not. No one knows what is in the heart of another man.

Christians do not, however, agree with many Muslim beliefs and we will say so if asked. This is frequently spun by many people as intolerance of Muslims. Here is another example, Christians believe that the homosexual acts are against Christian beliefs. In other words, to be a good Christian one must give up homosexual behaviors. Homosexual activists like to spin this into hatred of homosexuals. We do not hate homosexuals. I do not hate homosexuals. Hating people is expressly forbidden to Christians. Indeed, it is a more important command than the prohibition on homosexual acts.

You may disagree with Christians on the ethics of homosexuality just like I disagree with the Muslim stance on women's apparel. Fine, this is where tolerance becomes important. Tolerance, despite what so many now seem to think, is not agreeing with other people, but agreeing to disagree and live together in peace. I recognize that you have the right and duty to determine for yourself which ethical systems or beliefs are true and which are false. And you should do your best to live according to your conscience, but we should draw the line at the point of action.

There are some Christians that hate homosexuality and are willing to engage in evil acts against homosexuals, just as there are some Muslims that hate women who show their ankles and are willing to engage in evil acts against such people. At the point of acting against another person, we should join together, oppose such actions, and defend the oppressed in word and deed.

Merely my two cents.

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 01:39 PM

Here is another example, Christians believe that the homosexual acts are against Christian beliefs...

Not to detract from your central point, but only SOME Christians believe that homosexual acts are against Christian beliefs.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 01:53 PM

DPU: If al Qaeda breaks the law, as they have obviously done, then no, of course not, they are a criminal organization.

I don't see Al Qaeda as a criminal organization, where we're supposed to wait for them to break the law again before we do anything. They are more akin to enemy soldiers who need to be captured or killed.

But if a group like Hezbollah can be moderated over time or included in a democratic framework (which does tend to moderate extremists, which is why it is a valuable process) then why not?

If (when?) Hezbollah becomes a religious-right political party as opposed to the private army of a totalitarian state, then yes they should be tolerated. And their moderation, whenever it actually happens, should be encouraged and applauded.

I will leave them alone and even defend them (up to a point) if and when they calm down and join the civilized parties of Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 01:54 PM

And in a parallel vein, what are your feelings on hate speech laws?

I'm against "hate speech" laws, partly because just about anything these days can and is described as "hate speech" by somebody.

That does not mean I have to "tolerate" the ravings of the Ku Klux Klan. They can spout their racist garbage if they want. And I can and will tell them to fuck off.

I will not, however, tell a Christian or Muslim to fuck off for going to church or mosque.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 02:00 PM

JBP,

Your position seems very similar to that which I've always held (and yes, I include Athiests in the list of people that can spread hate and intolerance). I have always felt that a "live and let live" policy was best. However, it's becoming more difficult for me to accept that intolerant attitudes and beliefs can be supported.

If we lived in a world where the active face of Christians were like you (and the active face of Muslims were like Ali) then it would be easy for me to continue my position of tolerance. I don't mind if you want to believe in YHVH or Buddha or Allah or any other mythological deity, I personally choose Eris, just because she throws better parties... ;-)
For example, many Christians (at least those here in central Ohio) are vocal in their support of the ban on gay marriage (for example), not because of tax issues or potential legal problems... but because they are condemned by God and to allow them to marry would destroy the sanctity of the union. They no longer simply want me to tolerate their Bronze Age beliefs, based on myth and fiction... they want their silly dogma to effect the lives of people that don't share their creed. Their intolerant beliefs, become intolerant actions.

I don't think any Christian church should be forced to accept gay people if they don't want to. I can't imagine why any gay person would want to be in a church that clearly felt that homosexuality was a sin. It appears to me, like a black person being upset because they can't join the KKK.

I would love to still believe that we can all agree to disagree and be happy with that... but it doesn't seem like thats what's happening. Some (but not all) Christians, Atheists, Muslims and other dogmatic followers of ideas seem to think that I should not only tolerate their choice to believe in invisible deities and faux history, but that I should be OK with their choice to try to impress these beliefs on the nation as a whole (or the world as a whole with some jihadists). If everyone kept their beliefs to themselves, I would see tolerance as the nautral and just path... but once those beliefs leave the minds and private lives of a Muslim, Christian or Atheist (or whoever) and become action, either violent or political... I'm suddenly less sure that tolerance is ok.

I by no means want anyone to think that I am intolerant, I'm currently just conflicted and a bit confused.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 02:03 PM

DPU,

True enough. It was a generalization not a absolute statement. I am sorry if that did not come across as I intended. One can find exceptions to any belief in any group. I brought up homosexuality because it is a good example of what Tosk was writing about.

I think that Tosk, bless him, is heading towards madness. I do not know anyone, including myself, who I would trust to be the public arbitrator of which attitudes or beliefs are acceptable.

Instead, let us debate and be tolerant of those who disagree!

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 02:09 PM

I think that Tosk, bless him, is heading towards madness.

Ha ha.

I know Tosk. I met him in Ohio. I think he will be fine.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 02:14 PM

They are more akin to enemy soldiers who need to be captured or killed.

And if they only talked about attacking the US, but never did so? Would they still then be enemy soldiers?

I will leave them alone and even defend them (up to a point) if and when they calm down and join the civilized parties of Lebanon.

And what process is the most likely to bring that situation about?

<I'm against "hate speech" laws, partly because just about anything these days can and is described as "hate speech" by somebody.

Then I'm confused as to what you mean by "not tolerating." If a group like al Qaeda needs to be dealt without waiting for them to take action, on what basis are they being dealt with? Seems to me like you're proposing their ideas or what they're saying are the criminal act.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 02:14 PM

I know Tosk. I met him in Ohio. I think he will be fine.

Just when I was getting used to the idea that he might be an artificial intelligence experiment being tested on bloggers....

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 02:17 PM

JBP,

I think that Tosk, bless him, is heading towards madness.

Well, it does surely feel that way to me. The fact that I would even consider being "intolerant of intolerance" seems anathema to what I was taught growing up and what I have accepted through the study of philosophy, psychology and sociology. Yet, it has become more and more of a concern to me... how can we ever get past insane Islamic extremists, if we tolerate Imams preaching that infidels should die?

I do not know anyone, including myself, who I would trust to be the public arbitrator of which attitudes or beliefs are acceptable.

I agree 100% with what you're saying. I can't imagine that I would be able to perform such a duty. (I'd probably outlaw all beliefs and tell people that they had to end every statement about God, Evolution, Allah, Shiva and the rest with "Maybe..." ;-)

I don't want you to think that I am gonna embrace intolerance... Ali's experience just brought these thoughts to a head, I suppose.

All in all, I think the world might be a better place if we all just admitted that none of us know how we got here, where we're going or what we're supposed to do in the meantime.

Sigh,
Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 02:20 PM

Just when I was getting used to the idea that he might be an artificial intelligence experiment being tested on bloggers....

You mean you read my posts and thought I had some sort of intelligence?!

Wow...

;-)

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 02:23 PM

If a group like al Qaeda needs to be dealt without waiting for them to take action, on what basis are they being dealt with? Seems to me like you're proposing their ideas or what they're saying are the criminal act.

As enemies of all states, their existence is against our laws - if and when we choose to apply these laws.

Posted by: mary at October 25, 2006 02:31 PM

I'm confused as to what you mean by "not tolerating."

Let me put it to you this way. When I say something like "Muslims should be tolerated," I do not mean "don't kill them." Tolerance does not mean "allow to live." When I say that I will not tolerate the Ku Klux Klan, I do not mean the Klan should be hunted down and killed.

There's a lot of talk in our culture about tolerance. Usually by that we mean "be nice" or "be civil." Non-Christians like Tosk, my wife, and myself should be nice to Christians. That's just common human decency.

I do not think Hezbollah, for example, should be "tolerated" in that way. I refuse to be "nice" to Hezbollah or withhold judgement on their atrocious behavior. I want to see them disarmed. And I want to see Hassan Nasrallah dead, in a cage, or on trial for war crimes. I would never say any such thing about a random Muslim who prays in a mosque or my Christian neighbors who go to church down the street.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 02:39 PM

Tosk,

Fair enough, but consider the following:

For example, many Christians (at least those here in central Ohio) are vocal in their support of the ban on gay marriage (for example), not because of tax issues or potential legal problems... but because they are condemned by God and to allow them to marry would destroy the sanctity of the union. They no longer simply want me to tolerate their Bronze Age beliefs, based on myth and fiction... they want their silly dogma to effect the lives of people that don't share their creed. Their intolerant beliefs, become intolerant actions.

I mean no offense and I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are basically saying that these people are wrong and should, therefore, be suppressed. Are they obliged to vote according to what you believe is true? Tax issues and legal problems, you appear to draw your ethical beliefs from utilitarian grounds. My friend, it is not hard to logically demolish the case for utilitarian ethics. The consensus among ethical philosophers is that utilitarian ethics cannot be correct. In fact, one such debate where the utilitarian was losing terribly led to this joke memorized by the Philosophical Lexicon: outsmart, v. To embrace the conclusion of one's opponent's reductio ad absurdum argument. "They thought they had me, but I outsmarted them. I agreed that it was sometimes just to hang an innocent man."

All law is based upon ethical beliefs, which is why I am ideologically a libertarian. Ethics are terribly important and there is a remarkable amount of agreement about them, but no one can claim to be able to "prove" why his or her chosen precepts are correct.

This is why tolerance is terribly important if one would live at peace.

P.S. As a matter of history, it is not clear that mankind is less spiritual that it was during the "Bronze age." It may be true but it has not been proven even though it seems to be an assumption of many atheist. There were a lot of atheists back then and most people today believe in some type of deity or supernatural reality. Indeed, I was recently surprised to learn that a significant percentage of self identified atheists believe in life after death.

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 02:47 PM

Ah. Okay, that's considerably different than my own meaning of the term in a political sense. Your meaning is closer to the dictionary definition, mine closer to the political sense of allowing to coexist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 02:50 PM

As enemies of all states, their existence is against our laws...

Aw geez, not that fucking pirate thing again.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 02:53 PM

Apologies for the language.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 02:53 PM

MJT,

I know Tosk. I met him in Ohio. I think he will be fine.

O.K. so I am sitting here at my computer on a slow day and chatting with people on the world wide web, but I seem to be not able to write coherently. (Which is odd since I make my living writing...) Allow me to attempt to rectify things.

I am sorry if I make people think I was writing about Tosk personally. He seems like a great chap and I would never attempt to psychoanalyze someone over the internet. I have no doubts that Tosk will be quite sane when they haul me away in a white jacket! ;-)

I meant to write that Tosk's ideas, if fully accepted, seem to me to lead to public policy that would be madness. He has not been a proponent of thought control, and if I were to guess, he would be against it. I think he is simply voicing some ideas that are troubling him. And, heck, I could be wrong about this anyway.

But here is the rub: The ideas scare me because of what they could lead to. All to many these days seem quite ready to silence dissent. See Europe.

P.S. I know it was probably a joke, but...

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 03:03 PM

"now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates"

--Mark Twain

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 03:13 PM

Pirates, apparently, are not what they used to be.

Arrr, me hearties, skewer yon infidels for it be the will of Allah, arr.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 03:19 PM

Aw geez, not that fucking pirate thing again

It worked.

For a very long time the world has been tired of that leftist thing, which doesn't work. However, we're too polite to complain when some people insist on bringing it up.

Posted by: mary at October 25, 2006 03:28 PM

I mean no offense and I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are basically saying that these people are wrong and should, therefore, be suppressed.

Well, that's not exactly what I mean. I think that they are probably wrong... that is, I don't think that there is some invisible deity obssessed with who inserts what into whom. I would be more than happy to tolerate Christians that felt homosexuality was a sin. They could believe it all they want. However, as soon as they take their belief out of their church and out of their private lives and insist on making it public policy... it concerns me to a great degree. When the beliefs are beliefs of intolerance, not within their group, but intolerance at a national level it concerns me even more.

How is an Imam preaching about God hating Americans any different than Fred Phelps preaching that God hates Fags? The Imam hopes to enrage the believers and influence the government (sometimes, in some states, directly influencing the government).

I am not an atheist. I'm not even agnostic. I have defended Christian beliefs many times and I often debate on the opposite side of atheists, because I think they're just as lost in dogma as the members of the 700 Club.

At the end of the day, I guess, my problem is this:

Intolerant actions seem, to me, indefensible. Intolerant actions often appear closely related to intolerant speech.

If we desire to end actions that are intolerant, can we justify accepting speech which is intolerant?

If every cleric that called for Jihad was fined, or arrested by his government... or better yet covered in rotten tomatos and eggs... would we see the Islamic extremism we see today?

I don't have any answers, but my mind is filled with questions I once took for granted.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 03:32 PM

It worked.

Arrrrrrr.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2006 03:34 PM

Tosk,

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

When I posted my last reply, I did not see your reply.

If you are ever in Colorado, drop by and I will buy you a beer to make it up to you!

I would join you in asking people to be a bit more humble about their beliefs. The truth is that no one knows such things for sure! That is why all belief systems require faith. But we need some type of belief system. So we all do our best to find what we think is true.

Do you know how easy it is to write on the internet rather than write for my boss!

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 03:46 PM

Tosk,

How is an Imam preaching about God hating Americans any different than Fred Phelps preaching that God hates Fags?

I could draw some distinctions, like the Imam is much more likely to inspire action. But the truth is that either behavior is indefensible, and I will join you in denouncing both if your description is accurate. (I simply do not know.)

Is it not better to have these folks preaching and persuading in the open rather than secretly behind doors? At least, then we know what they stand for and can oppose them rhetorically. Prohibiting such beliefs will not end them. Indeed, many times in history suppressing beliefs have caused them to grow. Forbidden fruit is always a bit more attractive. And suppression can legitimize beliefs in the minds of many. I propose we have people's beliefs in the open before they become something more onerous than they already are. Let the imam preach and we can show how ignorant their opinions are.

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 04:00 PM

Tosk,

If you refuse to agree with me, I am going to join DPU's pirate crew.

DPU, do you need a rum custodian, by chance?

Posted by: JBP at October 25, 2006 04:05 PM

JBP,
Yay! Thank you, that was an awesome response and one that I had apparently mislaid during my disgust.

However, don't let me stop you from becoming an Old Salt. In fact, I'll join you!!

Arrr!

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 25, 2006 04:18 PM

Arrrrrrr.

This is such a non-argument. They weren't rules, they were just guidelines.

Posted by: mary at October 25, 2006 04:44 PM

I think we ought to be charitable and careful in our evaluation of Islam, not least because of all of the wonderful Muslims there are.

But I DON'T think it's somehow beyond the pale to ask the question: "Is there something deep and essential in Islam which makes it incompatible with freedom and Western civilization"?

I tend to think...not necessarily. But I respect the arguments of Robert Spencer and others which do not seem to me "phobic" at all, but reasoned.

Religions cannot simply be off bounds to criticism, even strong criticism.

Posted by: Jeff at October 25, 2006 04:51 PM

Islam is a religion, and all religions are incompatible with freedom and modern, secular democracy. Religions that have existed side-by-side with secular democracy for centuries, such as Christianity and Judaism, have learned to tone down and restrain their evangelistic impulses in order to co-exist with secular authority, so they're generally not much of a nuisance. But even these house-broken religions act up from time to time, and make trouble by over-reaching into the public square. That's why we have the unpleasantness of Terri Schiavo, stem-cell research restrictions, and a debate over the teaching of creationist doctrine in public school biology classes.

Islam was once a great and tolerant civilization with a tradition of tolerance, scholarship, and rationality. The Muslims preserved Greek philosophy during the European Dark Ages, for example, and administered Spain in an admirable fashion for many years.

But Islam is in its Dark Ages right now, and it seems to be unable to accommodate itself to the more humble role that Western religion has accepted. So that means that Muslims have to convince their brethren to submit to domestication, or face the consequences.

The majority of the world's population is not going to accept Sharia law and a Caliphate, and as long as we have people insisting we do, there is going to be conflict.

I think the way out of this is to accept the fact that all religion is essentially an obsolete remnant of the ignorance of ancient, tribal people, but I don't have a dog in the "my God is better than your God" fight.

PS: Dean Esmay is a fool and it's best to ignore him: HIV really does cause AIDS, Ebonics is not a language, and Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. Esmay thinks otherwise, and he furthermore believed Terri Schiavo was prepared to rise from her hospital bed and dance a little jig while solving quadratic equations with a little more time to mend.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at October 25, 2006 05:34 PM

Michael, I've read Esmay's responses to those on the right...if you can call repeated expletives "responses". I can imagine Ann Coulter commenters are indulging in the same exercise.

It seems to me that logic went flying out the window long ago, and exhortations from both sides have lost all semblance of civilized discourse.

Can we all just stick to the facts?

Posted by: DagneyT at October 25, 2006 06:22 PM

Michael, could we not diffuse the rhetoric by calling these reprehensible cowards perpetrating beheadings and suicide bombings by their correct names; mufsiuns fighting hirabahs?

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2006/20060622_5489.html

Posted by: DagneyT at October 25, 2006 06:27 PM

Michael, could we not diffuse the rhetoric by calling these reprehensible cowards perpetrating beheadings and suicide bombings by their correct names; mufsiduns fighting hirabahs?

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2006/20060622_5489.html

Posted by: DagneyT at October 25, 2006 06:28 PM

Michael, could we not diffuse the rhetoric by calling these reprehensible cowards perpetrating beheadings and suicide bombings by their correct names; mufsiduns fighting hirabahs?

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2006/20060622_5489.html

Posted by: DagneyT at October 25, 2006 06:29 PM

I wouldn't respect someone if they declared themselves a Muslim. It is a backwards and stupid religion, they all are, that deserves no respect regardless of threats. It's the worst of the big three imho.

I doubt it is compatable with western civilization either and we are going to have to deal with it one day. I hope I am wrong, would love to be actually, but Islam isn't going to work in the western world.

Posted by: mike at October 25, 2006 10:40 PM

Maybe you should read Ali's post, Mike. See if you still feel the same way when you're done.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2006 11:17 PM

I think there's a big problem with equating what people are with what they do. This is also Lisa's (of On the Face) confusion: "How can it be that most of the Muslims I meet are such great people? We must be misjudging them."

Well, that's not the right answer, because people don't fundamentally make the connection between what they do in their private life, with the political opinions that they hold, or with the implication of their actions on a policy level.

There's no question (in my mind) that there are major, major problems in the Muslim world. How much are those problems a result of the nature of Islam? Well, that's a question that Muslims themselves need to answer.

Posted by: Yafawi at October 26, 2006 02:09 AM

Totten you are trying my patience. Your use of the word "islamophobia" is bad enuff, but your pushing Dean Esmay on us is really just too much. Dean attacked Robert Spencer from Jihadwatch -- a man doing incredible work on confronting jihad apologists, dhimmis, and the jihad ideology -- and Spencer owned him. For anyone who'd like to read the actual argument -- and decide who won -- check out

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/013167.php

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/011460.php

Posted by: quantum at October 26, 2006 07:13 AM

Spent the last hour reading his works.I have one problematic point to discuss.
Eteraz maintains 50% of Kenya is Muslim and that in his piece http://eteraz.wordpress.com/2006/05/05/christian-terrorists-and-moral-equivalence/
the attacks on the embassy,were actually practice runs against other Muslims. CIA factbook says the kenyan muslim population is 10%. Wikipedia says the exact same and puts seventh day followers at a larger percentage.
This kind of demographic misrepresentation smacks of a Gerry Adams or an Ian Paisley.
Perhaps, he spends to much time making glibly obvious points that all Muslims are not terrorists and far too little time dealing with facts.

Posted by: Patrick at October 26, 2006 07:53 AM

How "tolerance" ever became a virtue, I don't know. It is ridiculous on its face. Obviously once should not simply "tolerate" everything. We all know that. That's why liberals like Mr. Totten have to keep saying that they won't tolerate intolerance. What a tiresome, nonsensical bit of wordplay. Obviously, if there are things you won't tolerate, then you too are intolerant.

Tolerance is no virtue. It is simply the abdication of the responsibility to stand up and say what is right and what is wrong. It is nihilism. I wish we could banish the word from the language for a decade or two so that it could regain some meaning.

But what liberals really mean by tolerance, of course, is that short of actual violence, we must accept into our nations people who have beliefs completely alien to our own, and sit quietly and uncomplainingly - in fact, we must actually WELCOME them - while they colonize parts of our peoples' lands and grow in numbers and power. The demographic inevitability of eventual war with these alien peoples is obvious, but we are to "tolerate" this because otherwise we are bigots, and that is the worst thing in the world next to child molestation.

I nominate a new ideal for enshrinement, a replacement for "we must be tolerant": "good fences make good neighbors". Stay in your own countries, fix your problems there (using our countries as examples if you want, we won't object), and let very different peoples (like Muslims and Westerners) live in peace in their own lands.

Posted by: Mark at October 26, 2006 08:41 AM

Dean Esmay simply can't be taken seriously when it comes to Islam... or much of anything else. His complete inability to respond to critizism with anything but insults or logical fallacies make me wonder why anyone bothers with that guy.

We're talking about someone who doesn't seem to believe that HIV causes AIDS. Critical thinking skills are obviously not his strong suit.

Point out that the violent acts of modern Islamic Fundametalists have some justification in Islamic texts, and he'll respond not with a rebuttal of facts but rather something like "Oh yeah? Well why don't you go out and talk to a Muslim?" Esmay is simply a buffoon, regardless if one happens to agree with some of his opinions.

There's no question that most Muslims are "moderate", just as are most practioners of religion. What is disturbing about Islam is that the moderates are disenfranchised while the violence inspiring fundamentalists control the debate. It's unfortunate that Ali wasn't given a fair shake, but like many of his fellow Muslims he seems unwilling to come acknowledge the more violent, abhorrent aspects of Islam and it's founder Mohammed but would rather deny their existance. Without honesty in this regard, no change can take place.

Most Muslims are moderate, but Islam itself is not moderate at all, and won't be until it undergoes a significant reformation.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at October 26, 2006 12:53 PM

Thanks for linking to Ali. There was a real wealth of dialogue going on in his site and on the comments.

Posted by: Solo at October 26, 2006 07:54 PM

PS: Dean Esmay is a fool and it's best to ignore him: HIV really does cause AIDS, Ebonics is not a language, and Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. Esmay thinks otherwise, and he furthermore believed Terri Schiavo was prepared to rise from her hospital bed and dance a little jig while solving quadratic equations with a little more time to mend.

His complete inability to respond to critizism with anything but insults or logical fallacies make me wonder why anyone bothers with that guy.

I applaud Dean for standing up to Islamophobia, but I find it hard to disagree with these asseessments. Some of the other commentors on his site are okay, but the man himself seems to be freight train of aggravated opinion without much ability to consider opposing viewpoints. Sometimes he'll agree with me and sometimes he won't, but it's pretty random either way. Ralph Peters, from the NYPost, on the other hand, I disagree with a lot, but is a much more realistic person, even when he's advocating that the thing to do in Iraq is to start killing a lot more people right now.

On the other hand, this has been a plenty interesting debate. I agree with Mike about not tolerating the Islamically violent - but I also agree with double-plus-ungood. The problem is that, realistically, what we will and will not tolerate is hopelessly arbitrary, in left, right, and center, because "tolerate" can be measured 1000 different ways. I haven't personally left my home to go into the tribal areas of Baluchistan looking to either kill Bin Laden or die. Neither has anyone here. Therefore, we're all tolerating Al-Quieda, to an extent. Whether we denounce them or refuse to associate with them doesn't mean we aren't tolerating them.
In the same way, Hizballah, frankly, tolerates America, even though they both dislike and oppose us.

There's always a spectrum of support and/or opposition, and 99.99999% of all people fail to hit pure intolerance or pure tolerance (leftists who make justifications for Hizballah would not cheer to see them bombing New York City: rightists decrying the March of Islam do not call for immediate depopulation of the lands in question.)
So you can pretty much always accuse anyone of 'tolerating' someone else's bad behavior, if you feel like doing it.

Better than taking up broad stands against ideas and movements that mean different things to different people, is to oppose specific actions, specific organizations, in specific contexts and in relation to specific conflicts or objectives.

Almost everything else involves a certain degree of hypocrisy.

Nice series of posts you have going here, Mike. Way to pick it back up. :-D (pardon the unavoidable touch of condescension)

Posted by: glasnost at October 26, 2006 08:48 PM

t-bone, I read his post prior to my first comment and if it is the same Ali I have been reading his blog for years. I still don't think the western and eastern, m.e, civilization can exist in the same territory. I think it is time to build as many walls as possible. I don't want to destroy the core/globalization etc... but Islam isn't going to work imho. It's just a nasty religious war twenty years from now that should have been avoided.

btw, my comment about backwards and stupid religions was directed at religious people not muslims. It was directed at adults with imaginary friends.

Posted by: mikek at October 26, 2006 10:44 PM

We should tolerate all speech within some limits -- shouting Fire in a crowded theatre is too much.
What about saying 'fire', or whispering 'fire'?

Harrassment and decibel level restrictions are also appropriate.

I object to F* speech, and note the irony of Lenny Bruce free speech advocates who have PC abolished the N* word; and thus think Huckleberry Finn is pro-bigotry book because it's full of the N* word.

We should tolerate speech, but NOT tolerate actions. The real problem has been that intolerant speech, like the kill- Rushdie fatwa, has NOT been taken seriously enough by the West.

Christians and Muslims can both believe gays are evil, but neither group should be allowed to kill gays or physically torment them.

Yet the world 'tolerates' Iran hanging gays for being gay. Not tolerating something either means a willingness to use violence to stop it, or it doesn't mean anything. Tolerating something means NOT using violence.

All laws are based on violence; if the laws are based on beliefs, the violence from law enforcement is based on those beliefs.

Civilization needs rule of law, meaning law enforcement. The two biggest freedoms that must be tolerated are: Free Religion, and Free Speech.

But such toleration of speech and belief doesn't include non-enforcement of laws, such as against rape or domestic violence.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 27, 2006 01:39 AM

I meant to link to the Paris commandeering of a bus by an armed & hooded gang, before they torched it.

No Pasaran

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 27, 2006 01:45 AM

Michael,

I met you at the dinner in New York a few weeks ago.
Thanks for bringing up the subject. Lately, I have been hearing more comments that disturb. I consider myself a hawk and I actively oppose the fascism I see in the Arab and Moslem world. But I have no interest in denigrating anybody's personal, private spiritual beliefs.

In addition, few of us are in a position to even make an informed decision about what Islam teaches as opposed to what Islamic leaders teach. As a Jew, I know how prayers and Talmudic passages can be taken out of context to support the worst anti-semitism. And, as a Jew, I know there are cultural patterns which do not come from religous teachings. Is the hatred a part of Islam itself or just a bad interpratation? I cannot know from where I stand. However, I do know that hating groups of people is wrong and must be opposed.

Finally, people can rationalize anything. They are just not that logically consistant. They won't let a book get in the way of what they really want to do. Moslems who want to reform Islam can find a way to it, even if it requires some creativity in reading the Koran.

Posted by: Steve at October 27, 2006 03:31 PM

Im sorry, I do realise there are a few really brave souls who are moderate Muslems but sadly so far short of critical mass, Islam is a terminally backward, brain washing population control political animal (roman catholisism is no angel either, the pope could have stopped the terrorism in Ireland if he had the desire), I only know a few muslems, one who is rather "lapsed", she had to learn arabic to reat the koran without the pollting effect of translation, even so talk to her enough and the moderation evaperates.

Posted by: chris edwards at November 1, 2006 12:39 PM
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