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rfrobison
01-06-2011, 12:47 AM
Pakistan has no need (http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2011/01/pakistan) for extremists.

I wonder if, given the outrages committed against secularists and Christians in Muslim countries, Robert Wright could put his concerns about "Islamophobia" in context.

DISCLAIMER: I say this as someone who has great respect for the devotion of Muslims to their faith that I encountered in Senegal years ago.

kezboard
01-06-2011, 03:34 AM
Wait, who's insufficiently moderate?

rfrobison
01-06-2011, 05:28 AM
Wait, who's insufficiently moderate?

In this instance, I'd say the Pakistani Muslim group, which The Economist calls "mainstream," and which is apparently calling on Muslims not to mourn the death of the assassinated governor, is lacking in moderation.

Again, I want to stress that I don't for an instant believe that many Muslims in Pakistan advocate killing government officials or commiting crimes against non-Muslims. But when laws of so-called friends of the West are on the books that allow members of a majority faith to prosecute (and persecute) members of a religious minority on solely religious grounds, that raises serious questions as to how Western aid money is spent.

The same could be said of Egypt and Indonesia as well, two more nominally secular, majority-Muslim states.

And of course it is galling to hear political pundits in the U.S. refer to "Christianists"--as if there were any valid comparison at all between people who oppose abortion or gay marriage, say, and those who carry out deadly fatwas to defend their religious honor.

stephanie
01-06-2011, 01:31 PM
But when laws of so-called friends of the West are on the books that allow members of a majority faith to prosecute (and persecute) members of a religious minority on solely religious grounds, that raises serious questions as to how Western aid money is spent.

It's no surprise that we make common cause with countries and regimes for foreign policy reasons that we should be less than comfortable with, is it? I mean, I don't think anyone is saying that we support Pakistan (or ever have) because we are in some delusion that it's basically like the US in terms of the rights recognized and so on. It's been more of a combination of "they are willing to work with us and the enemy of our enemy is our friend and we need them and we might be able to prevent worse-for-us regimes/groups from getting power," depending on the period (I'm not saying that what we have done has always made sense even under those terms). So I guess I think you are implicitly arguing against a position that no one actually holds.

operative
01-06-2011, 05:32 PM
Pakistan has no need (http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2011/01/pakistan) for extremists.

I wonder if, given the outrages committed against secularists and Christians in Muslim countries, Robert Wright could put his concerns about "Islamophobia" in context.

DISCLAIMER: I say this as someone who has great respect for the devotion of Muslims to their faith that I encountered in Senegal years ago.

Senegal might be the greatest example of statehood of a primarily Muslim society. They are among the most devout of any society on Earth, and yet by and large are a model of religious tolerance.

rfrobison
01-06-2011, 06:46 PM
It's no surprise that we make common cause with countries and regimes for foreign policy reasons that we should be less than comfortable with, is it? I mean, I don't think anyone is saying that we support Pakistan (or ever have) because we are in some delusion that it's basically like the US in terms of the rights recognized and so on. It's been more of a combination of "they are willing to work with us and the enemy of our enemy is our friend and we need them and we might be able to prevent worse-for-us regimes/groups from getting power," depending on the period (I'm not saying that what we have done has always made sense even under those terms). So I guess I think you are implicitly arguing against a position that no one actually holds.

I take your point. And I have no problem with realpolitik in a general sense: The U.S. and like-minded countries have strategic interests to protect and they must deal with the world as it is, not as they'd like it to be.

Still, there ought to be a way for Western democracies to insist the countries like Pakistan and Egypt do more to protect religious (and nonreligious) minorities than they do.

We do indeed, for better or worse, need friends in that part of the world; we need to be very careful about who we support and how.

stephanie
01-06-2011, 07:32 PM
I take your point. And I have no problem with realpolitik in a general sense: The U.S. and like-minded countries have strategic interests to protect and they must deal with the world as it is, not as they'd like it to be.

Still, there ought to be a way for Western democracies to insist the countries like Pakistan and Egypt do more to protect religious (and nonreligious) minorities than they do.

We do indeed, for better or worse, need friends in that part of the world; we need to be very careful about who we support and how.

One could argue that it might be easier if we didn't get ourselves into situations where we are more desperate for support from the nations in question than we might otherwise be.

TwinSwords
01-08-2011, 06:48 AM
Maybe this will help you with your Muslimophobia, RF.*

Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" (http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3365.aspx)

Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

...

*Why call it "Islamophobia?" Islam is an abstraction. The antipathy is for Muslims.



.

Ocean
01-08-2011, 10:16 AM
Wow. I hope it gets viral. Can you imagine?

rfrobison
01-08-2011, 10:56 AM
Maybe this will help you with your Muslimophobia, RF.*



*Why call it "Islamophobia?" Islam is an abstraction. The antipathy is for Muslims.



.

Nothing pleases me more than to know there are brave Muslims in Egypt willing to defend their fellow citizens. I will ignore the gratuitous and false charge of "Muslimphobia," as you have chosen to ignore my repeated statements of respect for Islam and Muslims--though I think they are wrong about the nature of God.

I spent six months in Senegal as an undergraduate and had (and still have) nothing but admiration for the faith I encountered there daily. If that that is somehow inadequate to the matchless Twin Swords ethic, I suppose I shall just have to live with that. Somehow.

TwinSwords
01-08-2011, 12:09 PM
Wow. I hope it gets viral. Can you imagine?

That would be AWESOME.

TwinSwords
01-08-2011, 12:19 PM
Nothing pleases me more than to know there are brave Muslims in Egypt willing to defend their fellow citizens. I will ignore the gratuitous and false charge of "Muslimphobia," as you have chosen to ignore my repeated statements of respect for Islam and Muslims--though I think they are wrong about the nature of God.

I spent six months in Senegal as an undergraduate and had (and still have) nothing but admiration for the faith I encountered there daily. If that that is somehow inadequate to the matchless Twin Swords ethic, I suppose I shall just have to live with that. Somehow.

I think you were speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You did cover yourself with a couple of disclaimers, but your initial statement contained two swipes at Muslims: (1) You mocked the word "moderate," harmonizing your argument with the long standing conservative attack that "there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim." (2) The meat of your argument was that contrary to the position taken by Bob Wright, "Islamaphobia" has gotten a bad name, and anti-Muslim animus should be appreciated and understood in the context of extremist acts in Pakistan.

In short, your argument appears to be "you may attack us as "Islamophobes, but we have good reason."

Here's how I see it: There are two types of people in the world: Those who seek to sow hatred and division, and those who attempt to build bridges and create conditions for peace.

Your post is an example of the former.

The Muslims standing alongside Christians in Egypt are an example of the latter. If we had more examples of the latter kind -- both the Muslims and the Christians -- we would have a better world.

People who behave like those Egyptian Muslims and Christians are likely to create warm feelings between faiths. People who write the kind of thing you wrote above do just the opposite.

bjkeefe
01-08-2011, 12:50 PM
Maybe this will help you with your Muslimophobia, RF.*

Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" (http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3365.aspx)

[...]

Thanks for passing along that note of hope.

As it happens, I have a friend who is a Coptic Christian, from Egypt. As you might imagine, he is prone to rail about (all) Muslims, and recent events have only aggravated this. I have sent him the above link and excerpt.

Ocean
01-08-2011, 12:58 PM
Here's how I see it: There are two types of people in the world: Those who seek to sow hatred and division, and those who attempt to build bridges and create conditions for peace.
...

The Muslims standing alongside Christians in Egypt are an example of the latter. If we had more examples of the latter kind -- both the Muslims and the Christians -- we would have a better world.

People who behave like those Egyptian Muslims and Christians are likely to create warm feelings between faiths. People who write the kind of thing you wrote above do just the opposite.

Perfectly articulated. Each time I hear religious people, most commonly Christians, because that's what I hear the most in the US, speak with rage and hatred about any other group (Muslims most of the time), I'm puzzled. My understanding of the abstract essence of Christian values is about tolerance, loving those who are different from you, helping and caring about others. But that basic principle gets buried under the weight of fear and hatred. Even staying within the boundaries of their own religion, can't Christians recognize that contradiction? Wouldn't this kind of situation be the perfect test of their faith and devotion to Christian principles? Go figure.

chiwhisoxx
01-08-2011, 02:09 PM
I think you were speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You did cover yourself with a couple of disclaimers, but your initial statement contained two swipes at Muslims: (1) You mocked the word "moderate," harmonizing your argument with the long standing conservative attack that "there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim." (2) The meat of your argument was that contrary to the position taken by Bob Wright, "Islamaphobia" has gotten a bad name, and anti-Muslim animus should be appreciated and understood in the context of extremist acts in Pakistan.

In short, your argument appears to be "you may attack us as "Islamophobes, but we have good reason."

Here's how I see it: There are two types of people in the world: Those who seek to sow hatred and division, and those who attempt to build bridges and create conditions for peace.

Your post is an example of the former.

The Muslims standing alongside Christians in Egypt are an example of the latter. If we had more examples of the latter kind -- both the Muslims and the Christians -- we would have a better world.

People who behave like those Egyptian Muslims and Christians are likely to create warm feelings between faiths. People who write the kind of thing you wrote above do just the opposite.

Dividing everyone in the world into those two camps is embarrassingly simplistic, and probably impossible to determine. Whenever a sentence begins with "there are two types of people" it's usually the preface to a bad joke from a movie, not a serious thought. And I think you're caricaturing or misunderstanding RF's comment about moderate muslims. The point isn't that "moderate" (whatever that means) Muslims don't exist. It's that Muslims who are labelled as moderate by the American intelligentsia often hold views that are decidedly immoderate. And there's a great deal of distance between "Islamaphobia is great", which I'm pretty sure he wasn't saying, and saying that not all skepticism about Islam should automatically be categorized as intolerant bigotry and ignored.

rfrobison
01-08-2011, 06:50 PM
I think you were speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You did cover yourself with a couple of disclaimers, but your initial statement contained two swipes at Muslims: (1) You mocked the word "moderate," harmonizing your argument with the long standing conservative attack that "there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim." (2) The meat of your argument was that contrary to the position taken by Bob Wright, "Islamaphobia" has gotten a bad name, and anti-Muslim animus should be appreciated and understood in the context of extremist acts in Pakistan.

In short, your argument appears to be "you may attack us as "Islamophobes, but we have good reason."

Here's how I see it: There are two types of people in the world: Those who seek to sow hatred and division, and those who attempt to build bridges and create conditions for peace.

Your post is an example of the former.

The Muslims standing alongside Christians in Egypt are an example of the latter. If we had more examples of the latter kind -- both the Muslims and the Christians -- we would have a better world.

People who behave like those Egyptian Muslims and Christians are likely to create warm feelings between faiths. People who write the kind of thing you wrote above do just the opposite.

To be perfectly frank, I don't much care whether you think I'm speaking out of both sides of my mouth. Nor am I inclined to bandy words with people who cast moral aspersions on those they have never met in the flesh.

You are mistaken about me. I shall leave it at that.

rfrobison
01-08-2011, 07:42 PM
Perfectly articulated. Each time I hear religious people, most commonly Christians, because that's what I hear the most in the US, speak with rage and hatred about any other group (Muslims most of the time), I'm puzzled. My understanding of the abstract essence of Christian values is about tolerance, loving those who are different from you, helping and caring about others. But that basic principle gets buried under the weight of fear and hatred. Even staying within the boundaries of their own religion, can't Christians recognize that contradiction? Wouldn't this kind of situation be the perfect test of their faith and devotion to Christian principles? Go figure.

In the examples I cited, I was criticizing those who use Islam for political ends, and the so-called moderates in some majority-Muslim states who remain silent or express approval of those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.

There is a huge moral blind spot among the members of the Irreligious Left in Western countries. Although it is plain as the nose on one's face that Christians (and others, yes) are being targeted for their faith (or lack thereof) and nothing else, there is an unwillingness to call evil by its name and acknowledge its fundamentally theological roots. They would rather talk about poverty or the alleged misdeeds of the West. This is a distortion or half-truth at best.

I have no feelings of hatred toward Muslims as a class. On the contrary, I have nothing but goodwill for the Muslims I know--and I know quite a few. I have no doubt that 99.99% percent of Muslims are just as peace-loving as anyone else.

But Jesus' injunction to turn the other cheek does not require that I be silent in the face of such blood-soaked injustices. To charge with Islamophobia or whatever-ophobia those who object when their co-relgionists are being slaughtered with the connivance of political and religious leaders strikes me as morally obtuse, to put it mildly.

What I hope and pray for is more people like the ones TS cited in the article. In the meantime, I continue to hope that cooler, wiser heads prevail and that not too many more of my fellow Christians are martyred.

rfrobison
01-08-2011, 07:44 PM
Dividing everyone in the world into those two camps is embarrassingly simplistic, and probably impossible to determine. Whenever a sentence begins with "there are two types of people" it's usually the preface to a bad joke from a movie, not a serious thought. And I think you're caricaturing or misunderstanding RF's comment about moderate muslims. The point isn't that "moderate" (whatever that means) Muslims don't exist. It's that Muslims who are labelled as moderate by the American intelligentsia often hold views that are decidedly immoderate. And there's a great deal of distance between "Islamaphobia is great", which I'm pretty sure he wasn't saying, and saying that not all skepticism about Islam should automatically be categorized as intolerant bigotry and ignored.

Just so. Thank you.

Ocean
01-08-2011, 08:17 PM
In the examples I cited, I was criticizing those who use Islam for political ends, and the so-called moderates in some majority-Muslim states who remain silent or express approval of those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.

In my comment I tried to stay away from this topic. But, okay, here we go again. Following your paragraph above, I tend to agree with you. I didn't follow your previous comments closely enough to see if they're consistent with this one, but again, I agree with this, if this is what you think.

There is a huge moral blind spot among the members of the Irreligious Left in Western countries.

I would qualify this to say "some members".

Although it is plain as the nose on one's face that Christians (and others, yes) are being targeted for their faith (or lack thereof) and nothing else, there is an unwillingness to call evil by its name and acknowledge its fundamentally theological roots. They would rather talk about poverty or the alleged misdeeds of the West. This is a distortion or half-truth at best.

The theological roots are there, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other reasons for the conflicts. When there are complex sociocultural conflicts like these wars, there's always what's apparent, on surface, and what's behind it, deeper roots that drive or contribute to fuel the conflict. I always keep that in mind when I look at any situation. Think about conflicts in the past, and how they were analyzed historically later, and how many factors which were not obvious or explicit at the time are found. I think it's good to ask, what else is there? What other factors fuel this conflict?

I have no feelings of hatred toward Muslims as a class. On the contrary, I have nothing but goodwill for the Muslims I know--and I know quite a few. I have no doubt that 99.99% percent of Muslims are just as peace-loving as anyone else.

Yes, I agree.

But Jesus' injunction to turn the other cheek does not require that I be silent in the face of such blood-soaked injustices.

No, I don't think you should be silent. My comment has to do with stepping back to look at what one's doing and reflect whether the direction is one of peace and conciliation or one of increasing conflict and hatred. The perfect example is the one that was cited about Muslims in Egypt protecting Coptic Christians. When something like that happens, the intention shines through. It's inspirational. It doesn't matter who is doing it, it's about reaching for peaceful means of reconciling religious tensions. If there was a God's hand, that's where it is.


To charge with Islamophobia or whatever-ophobia those who object when their co-relgionists are being slaughtered with the connivance of political and religious leaders strikes me as morally obtuse, to put it mildly.

I don't think that's my argument, so I'll leave it to you and others.

However, I would say that the main objection is to slaughtering anyone, not just your co-religionists.

What I hope and pray for is more people like the ones TS cited in the article.

As above, I very much agree with that sentiment.

In the meantime, I continue to hope that cooler, wiser heads prevail and that not too many more of my fellow Christians are martyred.

Again, the feeling should be extended to everyone, not only Christians. Being Christian is most of the time an accident of birthplace as much as being Muslim or any other religion. It's a path of belief, it doesn't change our humanity. And that's what we need to honor and respect, our respective humanity. At least that's my perspective as a non religious person.

rfrobison
01-08-2011, 08:28 PM
In my comment I tried to stay away from this topic. But, okay, here we go again. Following your paragraph above, I tend to agree with you. I didn't follow your previous comments closely enough to see if they're consistent with this one, but again, I agree with this, if this is what you think.



I would qualify this to say "some members".



The theological roots are there, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other reasons for the conflicts. When there are complex sociocultural conflicts like these wars, there's always what's apparent, on surface, and what's behind it, deeper roots that drive or contribute to fuel the conflict. I always keep that in mind when I look at any situation. Think about conflicts in the past, and how they were analyzed historically later, and how many factors which were not obvious or explicit at the time are found. I think it's good to ask, what else is there? What other factors fuel this conflict?



Yes, I agree.



No, I don't think you should be silent. My comment has to do with stepping back to look at what one's doing and reflect whether the direction is one of peace and conciliation or one of increasing conflict and hatred. The perfect example is the one that was cited about Muslims in Egypt protecting Coptic Christians. When something like that happens, the intention shines through. It's inspirational. It doesn't matter who is doing it, it's about reaching for peaceful means of reconciling religious tensions. If there was a God's hand, that's where it is.



I don't think that's my argument, so I'll leave it to you and others.

However, I would say that the main objection is to slaughtering anyone, not just your co-religionists.



As above, I very much agree with that sentiment.



Again, the feeling should be extended to everyone, not only Christians. Being Christian is most of the time an accident of birthplace as much as being Muslim or any other religion. It's a path of belief, it doesn't change our humanity. And that's what we need to honor and respect, our respective humanity. At least that's my perspective as a non religious person.

I agree with the thrust of what you say. Our perspectives are somewhat different, as I am a Christian, but of course you are right that everyone, regardless of creed, is entitled to live in peace.

I do believe there is a special role for religious leaders to play in quelling the unrest within their various flocks, and in an intra-faith and interfaith discussion. Unfortunately, the people most inclined to lead such a discussion are far, far removed from those who choose to fight their spiritual battles with guns and bombs and knives.

Ocean
01-08-2011, 08:39 PM
I agree with the thrust of what you say. Our perspectives are somewhat different, as I am a Christian, but of course you are right that everyone, regardless of creed, is entitled to live in peace.

I do believe there is a special role for religious leaders to play in quelling the unrest within their various flocks, and in an intra-faith and interfaith discussion. Unfortunately, the people most inclined to lead such a discussion are far, far removed from those who choose to fight their spiritual battles with guns and bombs and knives.


Yes, that's true. But it has to start somewhere. More people need to be vocal and engage in peaceful action.

stephanie
01-10-2011, 02:42 PM
the so-called moderates in some majority-Muslim states who remain silent or express approval of those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.

There's an unsupported assumption here -- that those who commit or support the atrocities are being called or are believed to be moderates. I think that's false. Moreover, the implicit idea that "liberals" are doing so doesn't stand up -- as we discussed earlier, the pressure to say that the type of Muslim in states we are friendly with doesn't come from some politically liberal or pro Muslim POV. It's realpolitick. The alliances perceived to be necessary or in our best interest are easier if we see the countries or regimes we are allied with as either "moderate" or more like us than they often are or, at least, moving in that direction and better than the likely alternative. That's clearly more related to our relationship with Pakistan than some ridiculous and non-existence attitude that Pakistan Muslims are all basically Unitarians.

There is a huge moral blind spot among the members of the Irreligious Left in Western countries.

I suspect that we differ on the relevance of the "irreligious left" to US politics.

Although it is plain as the nose on one's face that Christians (and others, yes) are being targeted for their faith (or lack thereof) and nothing else, there is an unwillingness to call evil by its name and acknowledge its fundamentally theological roots.

I haven't seen significant difference in the discussion of this from the right than the left, for the most part. There was a great deal of silence about some of the stuff going on in the Middle East and Iraq specifically, of course, but that was more about the fact that the US (and the Bush admin in particular) was terrified about the idea that the war would become more of a religious one than it was already seen as, as that would not serve the interests of Christians or the US.

There's also been some discussion of the discrimination against religious minorities in various Islamic countries (and occasional coverage of prosecutions of missionaries or persecutions of native Christians), but if you think there's widespread commitment among liberals that, say, Saudi Arabian is a fabulous liberal society or something, I think you are ignoring reality. No one claims that all, or even most, Islamic societies are respectful of all the values we care about (or even many of the basic ones). The argument is over whether the difference is inherent in Islam and thus carries over to Muslims in the US.

I have no feelings of hatred toward Muslims as a class. On the contrary, I have nothing but goodwill for the Muslims I know--and I know quite a few. I have no doubt that 99.99% percent of Muslims are just as peace-loving as anyone else.

Given this, on which we agree, I can't see why one would want to treat Muslims as a suspect class just due to their religion -- to suggest that they must disprove that they hate non-Muslims or what we consider necessary human rights or violence in a way that we wouldn't treat others. In fact, I bet you don't do this in your day to day life. But that's what this argument about Islamophobia is about. Do we acknowledge that some people use Islam (as other religious views or ideologies) to justify views that we consider repugnant, and even do so in good faith (in their own minds)? Sure, of course. But why is that relevant to the discussion of other people. Condemn those who take those positions or do the bad acts, including the governments of various countries who don't do enough to fight it. But don't discourage Muslims from feeling free to adopt American values (as you and I might define them) by insisting that rhetoric that questions the ability of Muslims generally to live by such values.

There seems to me to be no justification for the latter except to justify prejudices that some feel better in holding. And I don't think you are one of those people, which is why I think we can have a reasonable conversation about this.

To charge with Islamophobia or whatever-ophobia those who object when their co-relgionists are being slaughtered with the connivance of political and religious leaders strikes me as morally obtuse, to put it mildly.

I don't think anyone is doing this. I think there's some question as to why this, to which everyone should object, is being injected into a political debate about, basically, the rights of Muslims in the US and whether they can be trusted American citizens. Liberals certainly aren't the only ones (or even the main ones) to make common cause with unpleasant Islamic regimes or countries which contain groups which do awful things in the name of Islam. Liberals certainly don't (despite the adoration for such strawman in many quarters) deny that Muslims can do awful things, including in the name of their religion. The liberal argument is just that this does not make all Muslims a suspect class or somehow morally inferior to Christians, as a group, or atheists, as a group, or whatever. (Of course, some few in your irreligious left might take issue with this latter point, about atheists not being inherently more moral, but I'm assuming you and I would not agree with them.)

rfrobison
01-10-2011, 07:53 PM
There's an unsupported assumption here -- that those who commit or support the atrocities are being called or are believed to be moderates. I think that's false.

From The Economist article I cited at the top of this thread:

Mr Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, may have acted alone—an investigation to determine this has begun—but his cause has support in Pakistan. Following the assassination, a broad alliance of the country's clergy issued a statement condoning the murderer and lionising his assassin. “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident,” said Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, an organisation that represents the moderate Barelvi sect, the mainstream branch of Islam in the country.

Moreover, the implicit idea that "liberals" are doing so doesn't stand up -- as we discussed earlier, the pressure to say that the type of Muslim in states we are friendly with doesn't come from some politically liberal or pro Muslim POV. It's realpolitick. The alliances perceived to be necessary or in our best interest are easier if we see the countries or regimes we are allied with as either "moderate" or more like us than they often are or, at least, moving in that direction and better than the likely alternative. That's clearly more related to our relationship with Pakistan than some ridiculous and non-existence attitude that Pakistan Muslims are all basically Unitarians.

I'm not going to take issue with what you say above. But I have noticed a willingness to downplay the specifically religious nature of what is going on in countries like Egypt and Pakistan. The criticism of these so-called allies has been distinctly muted. And when pundits on the left speak of the religious aspect of the conflict at all--other than to denounce the supposed Islamophobia of the right--it is mostly to lament or condemn ALL religions as a source of conflict, obscurantism, what have you. That's a problem, in my view.

I haven't seen significant difference in the discussion of this from the right than the left, for the most part. There was a great deal of silence about some of the stuff going on in the Middle East and Iraq specifically, of course, but that was more about the fact that the US (and the Bush admin in particular) was terrified about the idea that the war would become more of a religious one than it was already seen as, as that would not serve the interests of Christians or the US.

See above.

There's also been some discussion of the discrimination against religious minorities in various Islamic countries (and occasional coverage of prosecutions of missionaries or persecutions of native Christians), but if you think there's widespread commitment among liberals that, say, Saudi Arabian is a fabulous liberal society or something, I think you are ignoring reality. No one claims that all, or even most, Islamic societies are respectful of all the values we care about (or even many of the basic ones). The argument is over whether the difference is inherent in Islam and thus carries over to Muslims in the US.

Again, I don't really disagree with most of what you're saying here. I find it frustrating however, that again, people on the left managed to work themselves into a lather over the opposition to the Islamic center in New York, but raise nary a peep when Christians are slaughtered by a very tiny minority of extremists -- but who are supported or at least tolerated by a significantly larger slice of the population -- in countries that are supposedly our allies. These are not states (i.e., Egypt and Pakistan) over which we have no influence. Their elites are utterly dependent on U.S. aid. They should be reminded of their obligations to uphold minimum standards of human rights.


Given this, on which we agree [The peaceful nature of the vast majority of Muslims], I can't see why one would want to treat Muslims as a suspect class just due to their religion -- to suggest that they must disprove that they hate non-Muslims or what we consider necessary human rights or violence in a way that we wouldn't treat others. In fact, I bet you don't do this in your day to day life. But that's what this argument about Islamophobia is about. Do we acknowledge that some people use Islam (as other religious views or ideologies) to justify views that we consider repugnant, and even do so in good faith (in their own minds)? Sure, of course. But why is that relevant to the discussion of other people. Condemn those who take those positions or do the bad acts, including the governments of various countries who don't do enough to fight it. But don't discourage Muslims from feeling free to adopt American values (as you and I might define them) by insisting that rhetoric that questions the ability of Muslims generally to live by such values.

There seems to me to be no justification for the latter except to justify prejudices that some feel better in holding. And I don't think you are one of those people, which is why I think we can have a reasonable conversation about this.

Quite correct.



I don't think anyone is doing this. [accusing critics of Muslim extremists who pass as moderates of "Islamophobia"]

Then I invite you to look at TwinSwords comments directed at me.


I think there's some question as to why this, to which everyone should object, is being injected into a political debate about, basically, the rights of Muslims in the US and whether they can be trusted American citizens. Liberals certainly aren't the only ones (or even the main ones) to make common cause with unpleasant Islamic regimes or countries which contain groups which do awful things in the name of Islam. Liberals certainly don't (despite the adoration for such strawman in many quarters) deny that Muslims can do awful things, including in the name of their religion. The liberal argument is just that this does not make all Muslims a suspect class or somehow morally inferior to Christians, as a group, or atheists, as a group, or whatever. (Of course, some few in your irreligious left might take issue with this latter point, about atheists not being inherently more moral, but I'm assuming you and I would not agree with them.)

You raise a good point, and perhaps I am guilty of conflating two issues that are only tangentally related, but again, I am concerned with the issue of balance. I personally find the rhetoric employed by the anti-mosque people in New York to be ugly and inflammatory, for example. What I would like to see is our leaders and public intellectuals reserve a little moral outrage for parts of the world over which we have influence and where the fear of at least some strains of Islam is entirely justified.

stephanie
01-11-2011, 02:10 PM
From The Economist article I cited at the top of this thread:

Mr Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, may have acted alone—an investigation to determine this has begun—but his cause has support in Pakistan. Following the assassination, a broad alliance of the country's clergy issued a statement condoning the murderer and lionising his assassin. “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident,” said Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, an organisation that represents the moderate Barelvi sect, the mainstream branch of Islam in the country.

Ah -- I don't think they are using "moderate" in a value-oriented way (as in calling the viewpoint expressed "moderate") or the political or religious way it would be used in the UK or US. I think they are merely identifying who the speaker is in a framework of groups in a way that the reader might understand. To show that he's not someone normally seen as a radical in Pakistan. If anything, that's more damning of the climate in Pakistan, not a justification of or denial of the attitude, as you seem to be arguing (if I'm reading you correctly).

Also, of course, The Economist is a fine magazine, but hardly a representative of leftwing US views.

For both of these reasons I don't think the citation supports the "why do you liberals apologize for intolerant Islamic regimes?" aspect of your comments.

I'm not going to take issue with what you say above. But I have noticed a willingness to downplay the specifically religious nature of what is going on in countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

Sure, but I think there's a misunderstanding here as to why. Like I said (and keep getting into arguments about), I see the significant question -- and the point of the "Beware of the Muslim" arguments that we keep getting both from partisans in the political realm and on this board -- whether there's some reason to treat Muslims differently (in terms of their religious rights, etc.) in the US. The argument against seems to be that Islam is inherently different from other religions -- that a devout and truthful Muslim must admit that he wants to kill the infidel or otherwise cannot live consistently with US law. To support that argument people point to the negative aspects of the regimes in many Muslim countries or atrocities that happen there. (I'll note that this argument is not all that different than those made from the 18th century on about immigrants from various non-democratic regimes. In the 18th century version it was the Germans who couldn't adjust to freedom.)

Thus, to respond to this argument people point out that there's nothing inherent in Islam that makes people do these things. Some Muslims interpret the religion in that way (and there are cultural and other reasons why), and some don't. Just as Christians, Jews, and others over time have interpreted their religion in different ways and the fact that some Inquisitor justifed killing in the name of Christianity does not at all define what I understand Christianity to require.

So when people argue that it's not the religion that caused the act, they aren't saying that the person didn't act based on his understanding of his religion, based on a religious justification, but that it doesn't mean that Islam is a dangerous religion that is not entitled to the tolerance and rights afforded other religions (as many in the US seem to be arguing, even though I don't think they have any chance of success -- it's pure politically motivated BS that anyone with a platform or the power to pass laws suggests that we can decide that Islam isn't a religion but an ideology and the like).

Moreover, when religious Muslims and others who see some commonalities between Islam and other monotheistic religions (perhaps Bush -- I can't recall now whether he said "we worship the same God," but it wouldn't surprise me) say that it's not a proper teaching of Islam, I see this as somewhat like me saying that laws imposing the death penalty on homosexuals (as being sought in Uganda) or outlawing other religions or certain types of war are not not justified by Christianity. Sure, some Christians will feel completely differently and I'm not saying they lying when they say they understand Christian morality to be consistent with these things. I'm arguing that I think Christianity is true and there are real, correct moral requirements that follow, and that I think killing in the name of God (for example) is contrary to that morality. Similarly, people who say that Islam doesn't permit killing in the name of God (or that the God of all the monotheists doesn't demand that) are engaging in an argument about what religious morals are, not claiming that people never do bad things in the name of Islam. I don't see why this is so hard to understand. (Frustration less at you than at the overall argument.)

That said, I don't actually argue about what Islam requires, because who am I to say. I merely point out that plenty of Muslims don't agree that it requires the things that bother or scare us, and it's wrong for some Christian or atheist to suggest that they are therefore bad Muslims. (It's like an atheist telling me that Pat Robertson is a better Christian than me, because he is more consistent with the Bible as the atheist reads it.)

[cont.]

stephanie
01-11-2011, 02:11 PM
And when pundits on the left speak of the religious aspect of the conflict at all--other than to denounce the supposed Islamophobia of the right--it is mostly to lament or condemn ALL religions as a source of conflict, obscurantism, what have you. That's a problem, in my view.

I simply don't see this going on.

Moreover, I'm not sure how you are defining "the left," but it sometimes seems as if there's a desire (more rcocean than you, but I'm seeing it somewhat in this comment) to define the right (Republicans) as pro religion and left (by which is mean Dems) as anti religious and, of course, in the US both "sides" are predominantly religious, with some non religious sorts on both sides. Sure, there are differences, but the idea that the Dems are anti religious is flatly untrue.

To go beyond this, my question is what conflict are you talking about -- the war in Iraq? In Afghanistan? On "terror"? The fights in the US about building mosques or community centers? On immigration? That seems unclear.

And, once that's defined, what religious aspect do you think is being ignored and what to you think needs to be said? I don't think liberals have been interested in denying the religious intolerance in Muslim countries and (again) to the extent that the US hasn't made the persecution of Christians in Iraq and other places front and center it is not a liberal vs. conservative position, but related to the dangerous position we are in and not wanting to make things worse.

It's possible there is something here that's getting ignored, but you seem to think that we are unwilling to say things that I think are said. To a certain extent, however, I don't think picking a head to head battle between Islam and westernism helps those who want western values to prevail. People don't pick against their religions, but they are much more willing to be convinced that their religious values are consistent with western values, I think, something they won't do as easily if we agree with Osama bin Laden that that's impossible and that our goal is really to eradicate Islam. That's one reason I think people (not just liberals) are hesitant to go there.

people on the left managed to work themselves into a lather over the opposition to the Islamic center in New York, but raise nary a peep when Christians are slaughtered by a very tiny minority of extremists -- but who are supported or at least tolerated by a significantly larger slice of the population -- in countries that are supposedly our allies.

Did the conservatives who made a political issue out of the Islamic Center make an issue of the attacks on Christians (at least during the Bush admin, when they were also happening, at the many earlier times when the right in the US wanted to make common cause with Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, including repressive regimes?) No they did not, which is why I find it puzzling that you are trying to make this into a "the liberals apologize for Islamic atrocities" thing.

As for the Islamic Center, sure I got more upset about the efforts to politicize that and to prevent it from being built (and the related efforts against buildings in TN and so on). That's because it's my country and something I have a say in. Atrocities abroad I think are terrible, but also something that I have far less say in (I feel basically depressed but powerless) and which do not themselves violate American principles.

Moreover, as I said before, part of the problem in places like Pakistan and Iraq (and I feel particularly depressed about the Christians in Iraq, because I've been hearing about it for some time, since I have good friends who are of that background), is that we have gotten ourselves into a situation where we need to make common cause with people who aren't pure or are willing to deal with those who are extremists for their own political needs (or just because they don't care) and there's little we can do without risking more harm. And again, this is not because liberals wanted us to get more involved in these states because we loved them so.

These are not states (i.e., Egypt and Pakistan) over which we have no influence.

And they are not states that have no influence over us or where we are unthreatened by changes in power. I'm sure people can debate whether there's more we could do, but the idea that we don't because liberals are pro Islam (or anti Christian) and so don't care is meritless, especially as there's basically no change in our relevant policies since Bush. Yet I didn't hear these arguments against Bush.

Then I invite you to look at TwinSwords comments directed at me.

I'll go back and do that. Can't speak to it now.