Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In praise of bigots

Carrie Prejean, Famous California Bigot

What follows is one of the more interesting responses to my recent blog postings that I have received in a while. I have set it out in italics and my reaction to it is posted below in normal font.

Anonymous writes:

This blogger (a Canadian?) is a closet Islamic bigot, hiding behind a facade of social consciousness (women's rights/homosexual rights, and protecting apostates, etc.)...substituting 'Muslim' for 'Nazi' (in his whimsical retelling of the Ft. Hood new story) really betrays this fact.

Islam is not Nazism, not even close (the write has never met a Nazi, I believe, and very few real followers of Islam). If one is calculating body counts, Christianity (which has also historically encouraged a "holy war' mentality) is at least as murderous as Islam, taken as a whole. Christianity is also anti-female, anti-homosexual (though the church has been a haven for homosexuals for centuries), and, of course, intolerant of apostates and dissenters (remember the Holy Inquisition?)---until the present age, at least (but I note the current Pope's declaration that the "true enemy" of monotheism is "secularism"--perpetuating the martial mentality towards the perceived "other").

While I do agree with people like David Brooks (recent op-ed about choice and evil)...I temper my "conditioned prejudice reflex" with (what I hope is) a deeper sense of cultural understanding. The non-judgmental "reaction" by leaders following the shooting is a sign of how far we have come as a nation from the days of instantaneous scapegoating (of the "other)...the blog writer would seem to prefer (under the guise of a word substitution exercise) that we mentally replace the foreigner term (Muslim or mole) with the modern era's most evil label (Nazi).

Here's my "whimsical" response to the "dead reckoning" blogger's post:

Yes, that's right, let's stop giving people with foreign names and beliefs the benefit of the doubt anymore...Let's encourage out political leaders to "shoot first, ask questions later"...let's foster public cries for retaliation (a slippery slope once you use the term "Nazi")...let's return to the 19th Century!...and then go through the bloody socio- evolutionary process once again...until maybe we wake up and learn and truly progress...

The blog writer routinely generalizes Islam and makes statements like "Islam is the only religion that preaches destruction of Western civilization" etc....Not distinguishing between Islamic teaching and Koranic teaching, and, in the context of discussing what the Koran preaches, he conflates the two...leaving the reader with the impression that the Koran says these things.

Here is a quote from the Koran (Sura 5, verse 13, I believe): "Be ye steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of other people blind you, that ye deal not justly."

As Dick Cheney has shown us, it is simple (minded) to "cherry pick" this or that passage to justify this or that prejudice (the bible was used to justify slavery; "All are welcome at my father's table...master and slave...." etc.)

Like most monotheistic, religious holy books, there is much content that is a reflection of the historical epoch in which the writing came about...often containing prejudices and misunderstandings...but also, admonitions like the foregoing Koranic quote (it's rough equivalent in the West: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you")...

Again, the blog writer, in my opinion is a bigot. His efforts seem little different from when Laura Bush noted the oppression of women in Afghanistan (as an additional moral justification for occupying the land) if she were a defender of women's rights (!)

...By the way, the FBI investigation into Hasan’s communication with al-Awlaki (American born, Yemeni cleric) was deemed to be related to Hasan's PTSD research (professional duties), and did not exhibit any "warning signs" or pose any threat...thus the investigation did not lead to any termination or suspension of Hasan's duties.

The recent admonition by Obama (and others) not to rush to judgment...was the ethically and socially correct thing to do.

I agree that there is such a thing as evil in the world (though I disagree with its commonly judged causes) ...but also, that we should not rush to judgment of someone based upon his/her cultural practices and beliefs. WE ALL KNOW THIS ALREADY. It is possible to believe both, despite what the pundits amongst us try to argue in favor of (this way or that, never both).

The war 'over there" has hit home once again...did you think that we were immune? Apart from the geo-political strategic reasons for occupying two Islamic nations (and a third being Saudi Arabia, with 20 K US troops stationed there)...we are fighting against extremism in all its forms (religious, social, political, economic)...our side has equally as many religious fanatics willing to kill or cry "holy war" (or "culture war")....this is the only enemy (same as it ever was)...let's find some concrete ways to combat it.....hmmm, maybe starting with
"love thy neighbor as thyself"....?

Navigator (aka bigot) replies:

Normally I am not one to dwell on the ideological language employed by the left wing and the right wing. I am more interested in the actual arguments advanced by the parties, but this piece is chock-a-block full of such leftist politico-babble that I simply could not resist commenting on that aspect of it. Is there a school somewhere that teaches the correct form for the articulation of leftist conceits 101, because they all seem to follow a common format?

We have the obligatory accusation of racism or Islamophobia; take your pick, which must always appear at the beginning of such a piece so that there is no shadow of a doubt that the subject of the accusation has no legitimacy. In this case the accusation is that I am an Islamic bigot, but not an ordinary Islamic bigot, I am a closet Islamic bigot (almost like a secret society bigot).

But the writer (who I shall hereafter designate in the masculine gender) has unmasked me, ripping away my guise of being concerned about such leftist-owned causes as women’s rights, homosexual rights and concern for apostates, to show that none of these really matter to me because I am just an Islamophobe and therefore have nothing useful or reliable to offer on any of those subjects.

We have the usual accusations of false argument, which the writer immediately employs on his own behalf with no shame of hypocrisy. For example, Anonymous wags a finger at me for the evil of “cherry picking” to bolster my argument (without identifying the example, mind you) and then proceeds to do exactly that by quoting some single sura from the Koran that fits his theme.

Likewise, it seems to Anonymous that I ought to know a Nazi or a Muslim before I write about them. He does not offer us his credentials in that respect, but is quite comfortable launching into a discussion of these matters anyway. Why do leftists feel that they command the public stage and they can play on it without abiding by the rules they seek to impose on others. The arrogance of that posture is breathtaking.

Anonymous fallaciously sets up a straw man that he attributes to me and then proceeds to knock him down (the body count thing).

The babble part is the business about the “other”. If only we didn’t think in terms of the “other” then there would be no “other” and we would have no problems, it all comes down to us to stop thinking there is an “other”. I have always thought this line is claptrap. Just because I don’t want to think there is a wolf at my door is not going to determine whether or not there is one.

But enough on the structure of Anonymous’ attack. Let me deal with the substance.

Anonymous seems to have missed the point of my satire. It was not driven by a desire to compare Islamism with Nazism. It was to compare the current climate of political correctness in speech and thought with that which prevailed amongst the military and government authorities in my father’s generation. The key to the piece was that the statements were taken as if they had occurred in the early 1940s, during a war with Germany, and, fairly looked at in that historical sense, they seem ludicrous.

I am not, by any measure, a “closet Islamic bigot”. I make no bones about the fact that I do not like Islam. Read my blog, I have almost nothing positive to say about it. If I am in a closet on that subject, it is one with three walls and a door all made of glass. Nor does the appellation of bigot stick, since by definition a bigot is an unreasonably intolerant person. I a reasonably intolerant person, or, put another way, a person who is intolerant for good reasons.

I am an atheist. I have acknowledged that fact repeatedly on my blog. I do not hide my bias. I don’t like any religion: a pox on all your holy books, as it were. But I have deep concerns about Islam above the others and for good reasons, which I will elaborate hereafter.

I don’t think it is sufficient for Anonymous to simply assert, as if it were an obvious fact, that Islamism and Nazism are “not even close”. He should at least be intellectually honest and make the case for that proposition. Otherwise it is merely a conclusion in search of a premise.

Anonymous should explain why he thinks that Islam and German National Socialism differ on the key issues – just the ones that would concern us in a pluralistic, liberal democracy. I am referring to matters such as triumphalism, the will to power, racism, treatment of Jews, treatment of non-Nazis and non-Muslims and so on. I would be curious to see how Anonymous parses the differences, if he can actually identify them.

Anonymous failed to mention that I credited Geert Wilders with the proposition that there are similarities between Nazism and Islamism, but I won’t hide behind that because I do believe there are some disturbing similarities: the hatred of Jews being one, the claim to super status in the world being another, and the idea that women are primarily breeders for the perpetuation of the race, being just another example. The list goes on.

Ah, then we have the old “Christianity is just as bad or worse” moral relativism argument. I have heard better arguments: Stalin and Mao were atheists and they killed a lot more people than all the mainline Abrahamic religious people ever did.

So what? How does that excuse Islam’s atrocities? Just because Al Capone killed more people than John Dillinger doesn’t exonerate Dillinger from his crimes or cause us to think more highly of him.

I am no apologizer for Christianity, as I have made clear in the foregoing, but it is not Christians who are blowing up and shooting non-Christians in the name of their religion. That might have been the case long ago, or perhaps not so long ago, if one considers Northern Ireland, but in the 21st century that activity is now a near monopoly of the Muslims, and it is the here and now that concerns me, not the long history of this activity.

And it also concerns me that it is not confined to only Muslim lands; would that it were, because that would be an easy out, but it is worldwide. Neither the IRA nor the Tamil Tigers ever threatened my safety and security in Canada. The same cannot be said for some of the followers of Islam.

When I must run a gauntlet of oppressive security measures at airports, have my passport checked 5 times between the checked-luggage kiosk and stepping aboard the airplane, having my ass and balls grabbed by some bored security agent, and have to partially disrobe in public, it is not because Christians have been previously caught with weapons or bombs hidden in their Bibles or shoes.

Rest assured, Anonymous, that if Christians start down this same road, I will be as equally concerned and as equally harsh about them. At my core, you will be able to say with confidence and pride that you know me to be an equal opportunity bigot.

I don’t think Anonymous’s case is helped much by laying the distinction at my door that I failed to make; i.e., what the Koran says versus Islamic teaching. This accusation would make sense if the Koran contained nothing but verses of love and kisses for all, and Islamic teaching was something quite different.

In fact, the Koran contains many suras that talk about fighting and killing non-Muslims. Additionally, the Hadith (the best example of the Muslim life as referenced by the way Mohammed lived his and what he had to say about it) is another source of Islamic religious duty, law and precedence. The world is not a better place as a result of the massacre Mohammed visited upon the Jews who rejected him as a prophet of God.

These are the sources Islamic leaders cite when they pronounce death sentences against novelists, cartoonists, publishers, movie makers, screen writers, translators, and even duly elected members of legislatures, none of whom live in Muslim lands, authorizing any Muslim in the world to kill these people. It is the source material for the justifications cited by al Qaeda leaders and their acolytes for their murderous activities and the source of justification offered by ordinary Muslims who take it upon themselves to visit death and destruction on non-Muslims.

These violent suras are no less authentic and authoritative than the sweetness and light one that Anonymous cherry-picked.

Anonymous betrays his own faulty reading skills. At no time did I make the claim, direct or implied, that the Koran teaches the destruction of western civilization.

In fact, the idea that Islam is the only religion at war with western civilization was not my proposition at all. It came from a Pakistani-born, Canadian Muslim, Tarek Fatah, who has written a book about Islam, which was the subject of another one of my blog postings.

Now I am beginning to get a sense of what Mark Steyn must have felt when he faced human rights complaints about what he had written and the Muslims were, in reality, not complaining about his viewpoint, but the fact that he merely reported what other Muslims had said.

Anonymous seems to assume I am a war-monger with respect to Islam. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

I have stated previously on my blog that I think the Afghanistan effort is wasted, that we should bring our army home when our commitment expires in 2011, and we should avoid mucking around militarily in Muslim lands in the future. I was opposed from the outset to the American invasion of Iraq. So I don’t really know how I got “conflated”, to borrow his word, with the likes of Dick Cheney and Laura Bush.

I don’t want to fight Islam; I just wish to protect my liberal-democracy society from that ideology. I am looking for an effective shield, not a sword. Is there a problem with that?

Well, there is when the top soldier in the United States professes to be more concerned about backlashes against Muslims than the future safety and security of non-Muslims. If the military cannot protect its own, perhaps it should take a leaf out of the playbook of one of the Scandinavian police forces that hired a private security firm to protect the police. And if the military cannot even safe-keep its own, then what hope is there for the rest of us on civvy street?

I am aware of the public details of the investigation by the FBI of Major Hasan’s communications with the radical Islamist in Yemen and that the investigation was suspended because the investigator concluded it was not terrorist related. It is interesting to note the response of that al Qaeda recruiter to Major Hasan’s 10 minutes of mayhem:
Anwar al-Awlakid posted a blog entry titled 'Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing' on his web site. In the post, Awlaki calls Hasan a 'hero’, and writes:

"[Hasan] is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people. This is a contradiction that many Muslims brush aside and just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Any decent Muslim cannot live, understanding properly his duties towards his Creator and his fellow Muslims, and yet serve as a US soldier. The US is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges. Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal."

President Obama referred to Hasan’s “twisted logic”. So much for the non-judgmental leaders Anonymous so admires.

There is nothing twisted about Hasan’s understanding of his religious duty. In fact, Major Hasan had suggested early on that all Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military should be granted conscientious objector status as long as U.S. soldiers were being deployed for combat in Muslim countries. That was a most sensible and logical solution to this problem. It is unfortunate that nobody took him seriously enough to follow through with it.

I make no claims about the existence of good and evil as some sort of cosmic force, I will leave the proof of that one for Anonymous. I can only distinguish actions that I would be inclined to call good from those that I would likely brand as evil. What Major Hasan did was evil, and praising what he did is evil.

Finally, a word about love thy neighbour.

In Christianity this is supposed to apply to everybody. In Islam it is restricted to only Muslims. This is a distinction Mr. Obama failed to note in his Cairo speech.

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