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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Words of Terror

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

I was recently talking with a friend about American conservatives, and their attitudes towards issues in the middle east. He thinks that 1) it is a good thing they care about what's happening over here; 2) they genuinely believe in the importance of the welfare of people over here.
My reactions are 1) it is wrong to try to generalize any traits over such a large group of individuals; 2) even if he can, and what he is claiming is true, I am having a hard time believing that mere well intentions are the reason for this on again, off again concern.
I wanted to supply him with examples to support what I wanted to say, until I came across this article and thought 'search no more'.
I also thought 'what the bloody hell?!!!":
To sit and listen to people who have spent the last three years piously lecturing us on the need to stand with "the Iraqi people," who justified our invasion of that country on the ground that we want to give them a better system of government because we must make Muslims like us more, now insist that what we need to do is bomb them with greater force and less precision is really rather vile -- but highly instructive. The masks are coming off. No more poetic tributes to democracy or all that sentimental whining about "hearts and minds." It's time to shed our unwarranted white guilt, really stretch our legs and let our hair down, and just keep bombing and bombing until we kill enough of them and win. Shelby Steele [WSJ writer] deserves some sort of award for triggering that refreshingly honest outburst.

MUST READ!

Moved on!

19 Comments:

Guff like that makes me think honesty is an overrated virtue (once I've finished vomiting).

I guess it is good, or at least useful, to see the real snarling face under the mask, hideous tho it is.

And my impression of the US conservatives is that their attention & care for 'over here' is strongly tied to their support for Israel as a necessity for the fulfilment of their crazy Armaggedon/pseudo-Christian fantasies, rather than any genuine concern for the people in the Levant

(Parenthetically does anyone have an acceptable phrase to describe the region? Middle-east & Levant seem very, umm, euro-centric).

By Anonymous firefalluk, at May 17, 2006 4:34 PM  

As I've said before, for a middle eastern to be convinced that the typical (but not all) us conservative today is even a bit concerned about the people's suffering in the middle east leaves him with only three choices to describe him, either he's an idiot or a mercenary (like you know who) or just kidding.

By Anonymous Mohamed, at May 17, 2006 7:55 PM  

I don't know many conservatives who talk about "bombing the hell" out of the Middle East seriously. I myself have been guilty of joking about it occasionally.

There is, however, a real debate among conservatives about whether or not Islam is ultimately compatible with democracy. Can we achieve democracy in a predominantly Muslim country or is the Islamic faith so incompatible with representative government as to make this goal impossible. Here there is a very real divide. Some believe that we can and must promote democracy while others say it isn't worth it and that we should simply look out for our own national interests and that any pro-democratic intervention is a waste time, money, and effort.

The side that says we can achieve democracy in the Muslim world is the predominant side currently. The other side, however, is not insignificant in number.

By Anonymous tommy, at May 18, 2006 12:01 AM  

Tommy, the side who claims that they want to achieve democracy are just using it as an excuse for aggression as much as they used the wmd excuse until it ultimately expired, as much as they're thinking right now for the next excuse, something like we're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here, which in addition to being a retarted excuse, is morally dispicable, retarted, because I think it's obvious by now that iraq is creating more terrorists (and way more dangerous and vicious and radicalized ones by the way, since when did we have suicide bombers in Egypt?), and morally dispicable, because it considers that eveything's ok as long as those being blown each day are iraqi men, women and children.

By Anonymous Mohamed, at May 18, 2006 1:14 AM  

Mohamed,

It's viewpoints like yours among the peoples of the world that make some of us really want to just let you all kill yourselves and stay out of it.

But, there is something in the American thinking that says if we just give them enough money, kill enough of the really bad people, point them in the right direction, they will be able to stand on their own feet and get it right.

But, if things keep going the way they are, those of us who feel like helping are going to become the minority.

Then you can blame us all you want. We won't be listening anymore.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

By Blogger Papa Ray, at May 18, 2006 8:00 AM  

Papa Ray,
Couldn't expect any other opinion from you, arrogant, condescending, narrow minded, ignorant, and in a nutshell just a redneck hick who's got an access to a keyboard.
See here, I disagree with Tommy on everything, but unlike you, at least he's engaged in a rational discussion to explain his point of view.

By Anonymous Mohamed, at May 18, 2006 7:43 PM  

Tommy, the side who claims that they want to achieve democracy are just using it as an excuse for aggression as much as they used the wmd excuse until it ultimately expired,

Sorry you feel this way. In any event, I would be curious to know whether or not you think Islam and democracy are compatible and if so how. I would like to think they can ultimately live together, but I honestly don't know sometimes.

The other day, in Turkey, a judge was shot in open court by a man upset that the judge had upheld a ban on Turkish schoolteachers wearing headscarves on their way to work. It may be a stupid law, but some people see it as evidence of the fundamental incompatibility of Islam and democracy. They argue that violent, resurgent brand of Islam is a normative and inevitable product that will appear time and again and thus free society and Islam will never be truly compatible.

Turkey is the most secular and democratic government in that part of the world but it has only remained so by repeated interventions of its military. I can think of at least 4 occasions where the military overthrew the government in the last 50 years. If this is democracy in an Islamic land, spare us.

As far as your comments about the US: what role do you want the United States to play? Should the US simply take an economically self-interested position toward the region? We could simply cut off all aid, buy our petro, and call it a day. How about some constructive suggestions rather than simply ranting about US actions to date?

By Anonymous tommy, at May 19, 2006 3:31 AM  

Tommy, if you're going to take the incident of the Turkish judge as the incompatability of islam with democracy then for fairness sake you have to apply the same standards to abortion clinics bombers and to the orthodox jewish settlers, having said that, to answer your question, no I don't believe that islam in an absolutist utopian dogmatic uncompromising form of government is compatible with democracy just as much as judaism and christianity in this form wouldn't be compatible, because in all honesty it's bound to happen that some side is going to claim that he's the true representative of that religion and rule by that claim of moral high ground paving the way for a future nightmare.
Also about democracy in the middle east, if you study some history, you'll find out that since the eighteen sixsties egypt had a functioning parliament with overreaching powers and oversight of the government until the early fifties when a military coup ended everything related to that period, and actually this parliament was functioning within an absolutely secular frame with the approval of a predominantly very religious constituency, in fact the moslem brotherhood was a very marginal group.
As far as the US role, I think that I'm entitled to voice my opinion about the Iraq war, the majority of the americans think it was a mistake, as for your question about the us role in the middle east or the world, the best thing the us can do is what it was doing best in the last hundred years, maintain the quality of education and research, specially in the biomedical and engineering fields, at it's top universities, this way I assure you, it's positive influence will always be appreciated even if it took some time to realize that.

By Anonymous Mohamed, at May 19, 2006 4:53 AM  

One of the problems that exists in Islam's relationship with democratic institutions that does not exist with Christianity or Judaism is the existence of Sharia. Sharia has proven to be a rather inflexible legal code that, being based on religious faith, cannot easily be amended.

Christianity has never had the sort of legalism that pervades Islam. In fact, Christianity's code of ethics is altogether much more abstract and contextual than either Islam or Judaism. Judaism (esp. Orthodox Judaism), on the other hand, is a rather 'legalistic' religion in the sense that it has a large number of rules governing everyday life. However, since Jews have been deprived of any sort of independent state for most of the last few thousand years, they have developed a much more tolerant and pragmatic approach to their religion than has been the case with Muslims.

By Anonymous tommy, at May 19, 2006 7:31 AM  

mohammed, tommy: thanx so much for the informative, and civilized discussion. It is an honour having both of you as commentators over here.
As for the Sharia thing...well, some would claim, that Sharia is very abstract as well (except in narrow cases, such as inheritance)...this is soldified by prophet Mohamed's decleration "You are more knowlegible of the affairs of your life"...which is a well established 'hadith' (prophet saying)...
The problem is ppl who are trying to either 1)elevate the 'text' to a higher status than common sense..., or 2)ppl who take historical incidents which happened mostly after the time of the prophet (khilafah for instance) and trying to convince us that it is religion!
Again, thanx for your tolerance

Papa Ray: You sir are a royal ASS!

By Blogger Tomanbay, at May 19, 2006 7:56 PM  

Disagree Tommy, one of the main tenets of islam is a very well known but forgotten principle that's supposed to be applied to both personal matters of faith or more public matters like legislations and laws, this principle is called "ijtihad", i don't have a literal translation for that, but the whole idea of ijtihad is trying to form an opinion based on rational approach in a way that's in agreement with your consciense, that's why you'd always find multitudes of opinions about a single topic among islamic scholars, and in fact this difference has been very much endorsed eversince islam existed, so just because the one with the most rigid and intolerant of other opinions even within islam has the louder voice doesn't mean that flexibility and compromise doesn't exist in the religion.

By Anonymous Mohamed, at May 19, 2006 8:01 PM  

this principle is called "ijtihad"

OK. This sounds like it might be of interest.

Would you mind elaborating as to how this theoretical principle applies in the real world? Is it even being applied by any Muslim country at present? Does it overrule or amend Sharia in any way? Or is it applicable to personal conduct? Can you give an example of it modifying Sharia? If not, can it? Does it apply only to internal disputes among Muslims or does it applied to relations with non-Muslims as well? Has any prominent religious scholar stated that ijtihad can, under certain cirumstances, modify Sharia?

By Anonymous tommy, at May 20, 2006 12:58 AM  

Tomanbay wrote:

ppl who take historical incidents which happened mostly after the time of the prophet (khilafah for instance) and trying to convince us that it is religion!

I'm curious about this as well. More moderate Muslims I meet on the internet often state that instances which seem to worry non-Muslims in the Qur'an need to be viewed the light of history and in the context that they occur in the Qur'an.

On the other hand, the wackos I see on the MEMRI TV seem to insist all of this stuff is still completely valid today.

For instance: Jews are pigs and apes? (Or cousins or brothers of pigs and apes.)

The moderate will say that this refers only to a particular occurrence in the Qur'an and that Jews are not to be despised as one of the "People of the Book."

The extremist, on the other hand, says Jews are still pigs and apes (figurately, of course).

Unfortunately, judging by what is appearing on TV shows in the Islamic world (at least, as best I can discern from MEMRI which is admittedly not a "balanced" source of news from the Islamic world), these people are more vocal and would seemingly be more popular.

There also seem to be quite a variance of opinion over the relative importance of the hadiths, how they should be applied in Sharia, and how they should be interpreted. Moderates seem to stress a "common sense" approach while Islamists insist on absolutism.

By Anonymous tommy, at May 21, 2006 2:40 AM  

If you looked at the situation in Italy in the 1840s, you would doubt that it was possible for the Italians to acieve democracy. The Papal states were as rigid a theocracy as Iran is now. Other states were run by despots of all kinds. Nowhere was there any freedom. Yet nowadays Italy is solidly democratic, if not yet free from corruption. The Arab countries will learn the skills needed for democracy too. Arabs are not stupid.

By Anonymous Don Cox, at May 21, 2006 7:58 PM  

The problem with what you are claiming, don cox, is that the Vatican became significantly more liberal over the years. Popes as late as the late 1800's were claiming that the doctrine of a separation of church and state was evil. This gradually changed. Also, throughout Europe, there has been, over the past few centuries, significant and powerful anti-clerical sentiment acting as a counterbalance to the Church.

Neither of these seems to hold true when you are discussing the Muslim world.

An interesting, but totally unrelated, passage I came across a few months back:

"We have seen that this memory of past greatness is characteristic of virtually the entire Muslim world in modern times. In the Arab case it is typified and concentrated. For them it is heightened by nationalism, and intensified by Arab sensibility. The Arabs feel more intimately the early glory than do any other Muslim group; and feel more tautly the nostalgia. The Arab sense of bygone splendour is superb.

One cannot begin to understand the modern Arab if one lacks a perceptive feeling for this. In the gulf between him and, for instance, the modern American, a matter of prime significance has been precisely the deep difference between a society with a memory of past greatness, and one with a sense of the present greatness. The one, imaginative and romantic, dreams of the future in terms of a reconstructed vision of the haunting past; the other, realistic and programmatic, plans for it, in terms of the practice of the satisfying present."

-- Thomas Cantwell Smith, Islam in Modern History (1957)

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